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This is my favourite Blog post I do during the year as I’ve got to admit I unashamedly LOVE Christmas, particularly the run up to the big day & everything that entails.

It’s such a special/magical time but more importantly a damn good excuse to attend lots of community Xmas events & to meet up with family/friends for drinks/meals etc.

This blog post is at least a week later than normal, mainly because a VERY special, exciting event happened 2 weeks ago-more on this later!
People unfamiliar to my blogs need to know that they are often long & rambling but hopefully if you stick with it there are lots of useful dates/events to put into the diary along with local Business news-any closures/new & anticipated openings. There is also a Community update section & I finish off with Snippets of News. An additional feature in the annual festive blog is a local shopping guide with recommendations/ideas on where to buy gifts and treats in the area.
I also always reiterate that the blog covers quite a defined small area of SE London, where I live & spend most of my time. The areas are Crofton Park. Honor Oak, Brockley, Ladywell & Catford. Other postcodes like Deptford & Hither Green do get some mentions.
This inevitably means I may miss out or forget to include things-I apologize in advance as there is only so much information I can retain! It also inevitably reflects my personal opinions/knowledge & whilst I try & report on most things in an unbiased way my preferences may occasionally become obvious.
I always start off the blog with my personal news & views on the world. However anyone who I know or follows me on the twitter will realize that there is only really one story in town & that is the amazing birth of our granddaughter ’Jaya Ada Martel’ on 10/11/21 (good numbers)
She is our first grandchild & we couldn’t be more delighted. Our daughter Alex was 13 days overdue & getting very fed up & so sadly the home birth she had planned didn’t happen as went into Croydon Mayday hospital to begin induction. The actual birth was eventually very quick with just under 5 hours from being one centimetre dilated to pushing out a very healthy 9lb 8oz baby!
She is absolutely gorgeous & Alex/Priyesh are very proud/chilled parents. We have visited quite a few times over the past fortnight & intend being very active grandparents in her life. They live in South Norwood which isn’t just round the corner but meanwhile isn’t miles away so can be there within 40 mins on the bike or public transport.
It certainly is an exciting new chapter in our lives and a fantastic addition to the dynamics of our lovely family (son Joe is chuffed to bits to be an uncle) We are very lucky that being retired we can see lots of them & Alex has nearly a year maternity leave & there is talk of being a small part of their childcare in the future.
Another piece of news that works well with the birth of Jaya is that good friends in Telegraph Hill have signed up to lease a small electric car from December & we are planning to contribute a share of the monthly cost to have usage of approximately 2 days a week. We haven’t owned a car now for over 7 years but do appreciate to go over to our daughters & pick them all up would be useful (they don’t drive/own a car) Anyway think it should work well & love the idea of sharing/pooling resources & hope it will become a growing trend. I certainly plan to still do most of my travelling/exploring the area by bike or walking.
Since I wrote my last blog in September we had a great trip away for 3 nights in October with our university friends to an amazing house right on the Thames, a few miles outside of Henley. This gathering of 10 of us had been planned for last September as a celebration of most of our 60th’s either that year or before but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to Covid regulations.
It was great to meet up with our very special friends who we have known now for 40 plus years where the majority of us met at Lancaster (Including me and Eamon) We all now live around the country from Cornwall to Scotland so meeting up regularly isn’t always possible but when we do we all connect back again immediately. This Airbnb house had its own island with a tennis court and so we were in heaven as are all very sporty/competitive and so many grudge matches were held!
I will finish this introduction with a brief outline of my views on the current state of the nation!! Where do I begin?? Anyone who reads my blogs knows my politics and that I am absolutely appalled by Johnson & this Government. However recently I fear they have plunged to new depths of incompetence, corruption and sleaze-I despair daily as new allegations and stories emerge.
However perhaps the main problem I fear at the moment is the current situation regarding Covid19. This government seems to have totally washed it’s hands of the problem and wants everyone to assume the pandemic is over. Sadly it is by no means over and whilst I wish with all my heart it was the daily case numbers/deaths speak for themselves. Okay the hospitalisations are much lower than at the beginning of the year but many hospitals are in crisis with major staff shortages, ambulances waiting round the block and an acute shortage of beds in many wards-and the winter hasn’t even truly begun!
I really thought when I last wrote my blog in September that we would already be in some kind of lockdown or restrictions but here we are nearly at the end of November and pretty much enjoying normal life, pre-covid. Don’t get me wrong I couldn’t be more delighted but sadly I think it is all a bit weird isn’t it! We are surely going to have to introduce some measures to try and manage/improve the situation.
I’m personally not booking much in advance as don’t want the disappointment of it being cancelled. However I realise we can’t put life on hold, particularly when you are in your 60’s like us. Me and Eamon had our boosters a fortnight ago, try to limit our indoor gatherings in busy places to a minimum, choosing to meet friends outside wherever possible.
Anyway this neatly leads me onto the main part of the blog which is the Xmas events/calendar of fayre’s & markets/happenings in the area over the next month leading up to the big day. There certainly is a lot planned and I am just so crossing my fingers that it can all take place and we can enjoy Christmas festivities this year.
Having organised many events/festivals/markets myself over the years I know how much work/time and stress goes into making these special occasions come together and so I hope that as many people as possible go along and SUPPORT.
Most of the events are being held outside so they are as Covid friendly as can be! Assuming the weather is good I think we are all very used now to wrapping up warm & I’m sure hats/scarves/gloves will be this years must have accessories.
EVENTS/MARKETS/FAYRES (in date order) 
CROFTMAS- Saturday 27th November 11-4pm 
This is a big community event celebrating all things Crofton Park & it is wonderful to have it finally happening again. It’s being led & initiated by the PTA at the fab Beecroft Garden school with the library and the beautiful Railway Garden also involved, along with quite a few of the local businesses along the High Street.
The playground at the school will be transformed into a magical Xmas winter wonderland with lots of craft stalls/food and drink. There will be bouncy castles/story telling/face painting & other activities for the kids & of course Santa’s Grotto. Also many of the local businesses have contributed prizes towards the BIG Croftmas raffle.
There will be a special Xmas market in the garden from 11-3pm with great stallholders, including Blue Room with their delicious Mexican food, Perinelli Salami with award winning cured meats & salami’s plus new to the market Slate n Crumb with an incredible range of amazing brownies. Craft stalls include Mark from Me on the Map with his popular local maps which make great gifts and Cheryl from Inspired in Brockley with her funky earrings. There will be a community fundraising stall for the garden/St Hilda’s giving out & selling lots of goodies/treats for the children. We are hoping to have live music from 12pm with mulled wine to keep us all warm.
The Crofton Park Community library will be open from 10 to 1 for anyone to pop in with also the annual return of  Xmas trees being sold on the main forecourt by Clickmas trees. In addition for Croftmas there will be two fab craft sessions at the library run by Make Mee studios as part of their plastic-free Christmas workshops. At 11am & 1245pm you can learn how to make festive pom poms to hang on your tree or give as gifts. There is a cost of £10 & it is advisable to book-see link here.
There should also be a number of local businesses participating with discounts/offers and other activities. Jerome’s Wine bar will be doing wine tasting during the day and I understand there will be a DJ outside First Glance shared with the clothes shop Paraphernalia opposite. This always brighten up the north end of the High Street with lively music to get people in a good mood. Altogether CROFTMAS is a great family day out so pop along and support.
Brockley Open Studios Christmas Fair – Saturday 27th November 10-4pm 
This annual event returns this year at St. Peter’s Church, Wickham Rd, Brockley
Always a popular fair with local artists & creatives selling their wares which make great Xmas pressies. For details of all participants check out BOS social media here
There will also be live music, mulled wine & baked goods from Little Nest Bakery. Certainly worth a trip over to Brockley and can then combine with CROFTMAS for a great shopping/family Saturday experience.
Breakspears Mews Community Garden Christmas Fair – Saturday 27th November 11-3pm
Meanwhile I’ve just seen that only 5 minutes walk away from St. Peter’s Church the lovely outdoor space, Breakspears Mews are holding their festive fair. Expect gifts, music, mulled wine and mince pies-what more do you want?
Corbett Christmas Market- Saturday 27th September 10-5pm
This is a big event this year over in Catford with stalls at both the Corbett Community Library and the St. Andrews Church hall which are literally opposite each other. I know of many lovely stall holders attending including Emily Brand, Kate Emblem, Vivien of McBeeBags and Carol Mullings. There will also be food, refreshments, face painting, balloons and more.
Deptford Market Yard-Winter Market-Saturday 27th November 11-5pm
Another event this Saturday has come to my attention over in SE8. Pop down to the Market Yard for a selection of food/drink/craft and gift stalls. This is in addition to the already established units within the area, many of whom will be doing special events such as The Tapas Room who are having a stall outside their restaurant selling hampers, mulled wine and warming Fabada stew. All sounds well worth a visit over to Deptford.
Wasteless Christmas Market-Beckenham Place Park-Saturday 27th November 11-3pm
I really thought I had finished with events this coming Saturday but they continue to keep on coming! It certainly is a popular date for festive events but understandably as will be exactly one month until the big day so now is the time to begin some serious shopping and getting in the mood. I can see that Climate Action Lewisham will be there with Xmas cards & children’s activities. A beautiful venue so check it out.
Catford Food MarketSunday 28th November 10-4pm
The now established monthly market in Catford Broadway that takes place the last Sunday of each month will have a very festive theme. Lots of the popular established traders will be there with Xmas goodies for sale.
Brett & Bailey for example will be selling their Xmas puddings, cakes and preserves-check out their online shop.  Also the Refugee cafe will have their delicious products/Xmas hampers. There will be live music with Give a Song on the early set at 1015-I’m sure it will feature some festive tunes
Finally to end the day the lights to the Catford Christmas tree will be switched on at 445pm.
Make Xmas cards & gift tags, Wild Cat Wilderness-Sunday 28th November 1030-1pm 
This is a family workshop for adults & children where you can find & use natural recycled materials from this fabulous community Green space to make cards & gift tags. It will take place in the outdoor classroom so is covered if wet. There is a suggested donation of £3-5 per person & you need to book a place-details here.
The Hill Trader Christmas Market – Sunday 28th November 3-7pm 
This is always a lovely Xmas event & this year promises to be their biggest one yet with over 30 established local artists/crafters. There will be mulled wine/mince pies & a local choir to give you a very warm welcome whilst shopping at the fab Hill Station Cafe in Telegraph Hill.
This rounds up a very busy start to the Xmas season with just one month to go!
NHD Arts & Crafts, Nineth Life-Saturday 4th December 12-6pm 
This central Catford pub will be hosting a Xmas market extravaganza with arts/crafts/decorations & more for sale. It also coincides with Small Business Saturday so pop down to SE6 & Support our amazing local traders. It promises to be a BIG one.
Perry Hill pub Christmas Market-Saturday 4th December 12-4pm
The Perry Hill has lots of festivities planned over the month of December. This will be the first Xmas since they opened their doors in April this year & you can tell they are owners who love this time of the year with the various events scheduled. 12 traders are in attendance at this market so why not pop in, grab a pint or mulled wine & have a relaxed shop!
Art Hub Open Studios, Creekside, Deptford-Saturday 4th December 11-5pm 
Support local creatives, talk to artists & makers about their work & buy one off gifts direct from them at this Open Studios over in SE8 on the first Saturday in December.
Meanwhile literally 2 mins walk down the road, along Creekside is the Cockpit Makers Market from the 3rd to the 5th December-for details of times & tickets check out here. Certainly on the Saturday this is a great opportunity to combine the 2 events & do some serious Xmas shopping
European Winter Market-Forest Hill Boys School-Thursday 9th December 430-730pm 
This fab school (my son Joe went there for 7 years so have a great fondness) opens its doors to the community for what looks to be a great midweek evening event. The winter market promises food/drink/stalls/displays/activities/performances & much more. It’s firmly in my diary so hope to see you there.
Brockley Xmas Market, Coulgate St – Saturday 11th December 12-6pm
This has to be the highlight of the festive calendar in the area as is the biggest Xmas market in town & there is always such a great atmosphere. I come away from this event buzzing but also confirming that I live in the BEST community.
There are always lots of fantastic stalls-this year over 70 traders will be there with many being turned away as it’s always oversubscribed as everyone wants to be at this one as it’s so popular & busy. There are also food traders besides the already established fab businesses of Browns of Brockley, the Brocca & Parlez on the street.
Mulled wine & mince pies are sold in abundance & the music stage guarantees to give us brilliant performances that we can watch or listen to. Details of the lineup have yet to be announced but I understand Baz’s Rock Choir are certainly there again.
If new to the area then put this Market in the diary as you would not want to miss it & will prove you have made an excellent decision to move to this part of SE London-see you there.
Havelock Walk Winter Open Studios, SE23 – Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th December 11-5pm
Just heard that the fabulous art studios in the delightful cobbled street in Forest Hill are opening their doors to the public at the weekend a fortnight before Xmas. Don’t know details yet but it is always a great event often with food/drink and music to add to the occasion.
Wreath & table decoration workshop, Wild Cat Wilderness-Sunday 12th December 1030-130pm 
This popular workshop is taking place again this year using natural materials from the beautiful community space in Catford. It is under cover in the outdoor classroom. You will certainly need to book as places get taken quickly-there is a suggested £5-10 donation-for details see here.
Horniman’s Xmas Market – Sunday 12th December 10-3pm
The established popular Sunday farmers market by the bandstand in the grounds of Horniman’s will be even bigger on this date with more festive stalls and traders. There will also be an Xmas trail plus a festive craft workshop. This award winning museum always excels at putting on great events and so expect a good family trip out if you pop down to this part of SE23. There is of course the beautiful displays inside the venue to additionally keep everyone occupied plus good food & beverages.
Hither Green Christmas Fair, St Swithuns Hall, SE13-Sunday 12th December 12-5pm
Sadly the large outdoor Xmas FUSS market along Staplehurst Road will not take place this year but SE13 is not going without a good Christmas event and it is now inside St. Swithin’s so there is still an opportunity to buy locally made gifts from designers and crafters. There will also be a children’s tombola, cookie decorating and much more. Pop over to Hither Green and support.
Muck n Brass Christmas Shopping Fayre,Codrington Hill SE23-Sunday 12th December 11-4pm
This is a great event in the local festive calendar as Lady Zoe always has some amazing funky gifts for sale at her studios in Honor Oak. Expect food/drink/vintage clothes/fabrics/Christmas jumpers, samples and much more. This year she has invited some other fantastic creatives to join her so it will be even bigger and better. Put this in the diary and see you there.
Xmas market, Wanderlust Eatery-Saturday 18th December 3-6pm 
This fantastic cafe in Verdant Lane, Catford that has only opened in the last year is joining in the Xmas celebrations with a market on the last Saturday before the big day. It has invited local makers/creatives to join them for the afternoon. Sounds like one to check out & if you haven’t been to this cafe yet then pop in-the food is delicious. I can also see that they are putting on a whole host of fun festive events in December-check them out on instagram.
There is not that much business news since I wrote my last blog in September and for quite a few of the significant larger empty units that I am aware of in the area very little has moved forward or changed unfortunately.
I have written extensively in past blogs about my views on the current Covid situation with lots of local businesses and am generally pleased to report that I feel the majority are doing well and have survived the pandemic so far in reasonable shape. However this next month is crucial for many, particularly retail and hospitality as the run up to Christmas is by far their busiest period. I’m still nervous that there may be restrictions introduced or even worse a lock-down and this would be a devastating blow to so many businesses.
I ere on the pessimistic side and so truly hope that I’m proved wrong and that we can get through this festive season intact. It goes without saying that we need to get out there and SUPPORT our amazing local businesses and I will be doing a shopping guide at the end of this section to help point you in the right direction for goodies/gifts. As I often say we need to USE or LOSE.
The only business I’m aware of that has closed in the past few months is Masala Wala Cafe. We received the sad news via a statement from the family at the end of October that they had taken the very difficult decision to shut down the business. They had faced rent increases & this had placed great stress and strain on the family to make it financially work for them under the pandemic. However they have indicated that they hope to be continuing the family brand/home-cooked Pakistani food in various forms in the future so watch this space!
It certainly is a very sad loss to that part of SE4 and when it opened in 2015 it helped transform the Brockley Cross area making it a destination. The business was started as a mother and daughter affair and when Saima was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 she often had to step back and let her sisters take over. Following her very sad death last summer the family had to work out if they would continue and whilst it continued to provide a very successful take-away service they have understandably decided to finally close the cafe. I wish them all lots of luck for the future in whatever they choose to do.
As previously said earlier there aren’t that many new businesses that have opened in the last few months but the four I’m aware of are great additions to the area and all only opened in the last few weeks/even days with Yard Sale Pizza. 
Plenty #SE13 
This fantastic new business opened on the 9th November, just a fortnight ago, in Ladywell & is already proving a great addition to the village.
Alina & Joel already own the popular cafe Oscars, literally opposite each other, but have also wanted to have a shop/food pantry where you can buy all the essential items by weight & so only buy what you need, hence cutting down on waste.
They set up a crowd funding campaign in August to help with the refurbishment costs & within 3 weeks had reached their target. This was a great boost, showing that there was obvious local need & support for their new venture. After a couple of months of hard graft the previous old unit has been transformed into a beautiful clean shop space.
I have popped in a couple of times and have been very impressed with the range & price of items available. From grains/pulses to rice/pasta to dried fruits/spices and much more.
There are also oils for sale plus a very popular wine tap area where can pour your favourite grape by the 100ml. Perhaps the area attracting the most attention is the peanut butter machine!
If you haven’t visited yet I can highly recommend popping in as there is no obligation to buy & Joel will give you a very warm welcome/show you round & help with how to use the servers. In conclusion a brilliant new healthy eco-shop addition to SE13
The highly recommended restaurant Heritage Dulwich are branching out with their brand of Indian comfort food into the takeaway/delivery business & are wanting to set up a few new outlets across SE London. Their first site just happens to be in Honor Oak at 78 Brockley Rise and opened last week in SE23.
Meaning Epic in Hindi, Jhakass is inspired by street food and classic dishes from four key cities: Delhi, Bombay. Kolkata and Chennai. Chef Dayashankar Sharma has created a menu that majors on set menus for two. For the full menu see here.
I personally haven’t tried it yet but am reliably informed that the food is excellent and so we are very lucky to have this new business on our doorstep. If popping in to collect I understand you will be offered spiced Karak chai, desi coffeee or nimbu pani plus snacks so that certainly sounds worth checking out!
Yard Sale Pizza 
I left writing this entry until yesterday as it only opened on Monday and I wanted to be able to knowledgeably report back on this new business after using it myself. Me and Eamon were fortunate to be invited to the small preview night on Sunday before the big public launch day.
I was immediately impressed with what Yard Sale Pizza had done to this previous small fish & chip/kebab shop in Crofton Park. They have spent the past 3 months gutting the unit/knocking down walls and creating an attractive light/visible area with the brick red pizza oven situated at the back, a large high counter and a couple of popular booths for diners who want to eat in.
The business was formed in 2014 with co-founders Johnnie and Nick, 2 mates who built a pizza oven in their own back yard and started inviting friends and family over for pizza supper club nights that proved very popular. They then opened their first shop in Clapton and seven years later Crofton Park is their nineth shop in London.
The pizzas we had were great but the thing I was most impressed with and ordered with initial hesitation was the garlic bread with cheese and marmite! It was amazing and I’m still dreaming of the taste so certainly will be re-ordering it very soon. One of the things that the business prides itself on is that all the orders are delivered to you by their in-house team of cylists/riders and so keeping it totally within their control.
The marketing ahead of the opening on Monday night has been really impressive in my opinion. From competitions of getting people to vote for their road to win pizza for the whole street to 50% off nights over the first two weeks of opening with a special code has been genius and created a real buzz in the area. (and local street what’s app groups)
I can also announce that they have teamed up with Joyce in Brockley to deliver pizzas directly to this popular Midtown Brockley bar. Orders are being taken from the 2nd December. A great collaboration and a win win for both businesses as Joyce hasn’t previously provided hot food to their customers.
I certainly think that Yard Sale Pizza will prove to be a great addition to SE4 and be a blueprint for businesses to follow in future when they launch/open.
Beldi Maison
Whilst this new business is outside the normal area I cover it is only 15 minutes by car on a good run. However it is definitely worthy of an inclusion as the owner is Sodia who lives on my street and many will know her over the years for her delicious cupcakes, Sucre le Creme and being a very active community person, organising Croftfest, Croftmas and helping out with Beecroft Garden school’s PTA.
However a good few years ago she branched out into the interior/lifestyle and home decor business, initially importing from Morocco. She also buys classic retro and vintage furniture creating a unique style. Mainly selling online but with a few pop up opportunities in shops/units she has quickly established a name for herself.  Having had a stall at the Railway garden a few times this year her beautiful display of items for sale has proved very popular.
Sodia soon realized she needed to have her own shop-if not for the sake of her marriage as one good reason as their house was quickly becoming a store/warehouse! She found a large empty shop unit that was perfect for her needs over in Sundridge Park, Bromley and has spent the last month stripping it out and getting it ready for the grand opening last week.
I haven’t managed to get over there myself yet but certainly plan to. Sodia posted some photos on our street What’s App and it looks stunning. Beside homeware she is doing gifts and has a whole room dedicated to children with more stock arriving all the time. There is also a large area at the back where she plans to run creative workshops. I would certainly recommend popping in to this shop and I’m sure you will not be disappointed. Check out the website here
I’m aware of a few businesses that are hoping to open their doors very soon and as always I’m sure there will be others that I don’t know about yet but happen without warning which is always a very pleasant surprise.
Perhaps the main one that I am personally excited about is Cool Beans which is the name of the new cafe due to open before Xmas on Ewhurst Road. Literally this is at the bottom of my road and as I stand outside my house I can see it, so less than 2 mins walk.
I have got to say since the owner Jay died, Hungry Horace and the next re-incarnations with his family taking it over it this cafe never really attracted people from the local area and has generally been poorly supported. There certainly is a large local pool of residents in the immediate streets that I am sure would pop down/meet for a coffee/breakfast/lunch and even work from there for a few hours if the Wi-fi is good.
The new owners are a family who are keen to work with the local community. Two sisters and daughter team I understand are managing it. They certainly have gutted the place and invested time and money into refurbishing it. I really hope that the menu and ambiance live up to all our expectations and we finally get a great local cafe in Ewhurst Road.
Another cafe that I’m getting excited about is the large double unit by Catford station on the ground floor of block of flats. It has been empty since the flats were finished 3 plus years ago and so it finally becoming operational as a business is long overdue.
The windows have been covered by white paint for many months now but a few of us have occasionally seen the door open and popped our head inside. It is certainly taking its time to open but a big advancement a few weeks ago was when a name Dolce appeared. I understand it is to be an Italian cafe/gelateria/bistro and not part of a big chain which is great news.
I’m assuming/hoping there will be lots of outside seating as there is certainly the space for it. We are still no nearer to knowing when it will open but it really could be any day now and totally surprise us which will be great news for SE6 commuters/residents and beyond. It is certainly in a good location for many of us that pass by there regularly by bike or walking at the start or end (depending which way going) of the Waterlink Way for a refreshment stop.
As I wrote in my last blog ( and the few before) there are still some really big units that have been empty now for a long time. There is very little extra information I can offer but hope that things will become clearer in the next few months.
Barclay’s Bank in Crofton Park has been empty now for over 3 years and things looked hopeful in the summer as the ground floor was gutted and cleared out with exciting rumours that it would soon become a hospitality business-either as a bar/restaurant or a combination.
However a couple of weeks ago the whole building, including the flats above, went up for auction. I don’t yet know the outcome of that sale but hopefully the situation will soon become clear. I understand the ground floor can’t be converted to residential with the current planning permission so the local vision of a good quality bar/restaurant could still be realized-fingers crossed.
Again the future of the two large Coral empty units in Ladywell and Midtown Brockley is still unclear. Whilst there is a lot of interest from various parties on the corner unit in Ladywell, next to the Larder, no-one seems to know what is happening and why it is taking so long for a decision. Everyone is hoping it will be a restaurant to help boost the night time economy in the village-watch this space!
Meanwhile the large corner unit on the main Brockley Road with Adelaide Ave was supposed to become a hardware/tool shop/builders merchants and everyone locally seemed to view this potential business use very positively. However I have recently heard that there are complications on ownership with the current building and sadly it seems unlikely this will be sorted out any time soon.
I fear it may mean that the potential new builder merchants will not now happen as the owner was all ready with stock etc to move in and is having to look for alternative locations. As we all know in property negotiations things can all change very quickly so anything can happen-for good or bad.
A few other smaller units are empty around the area and recently been refurbished/currently being marketed so these may quickly become occupied and then surprise us with a new business popping up that we didn’t have much advance notice about-all very exciting-watch this space!
I will once again finish the BIZ section of the blog with 3 of our amazing local businesses that are more than just a shop/pub or cafe/restaurant-they really are important destinations! I’m always delighted to say that two of these very special places are just 5 minutes walk from my house in Crofton Park, namely the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre and the Rivoli Ballroom. The other venue I’m mentioning here is the wonderful Catford Mews that opened now over 2 years ago in SE6.
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre 
This popular local theatre re-opened its doors to the general public from mid-June and has been showing to often full houses ever since with a great variety of different shows. They have just received the fantastic news that under the current round of Culture Recovery funding they have been given funds that allows them to survive and indeed continue providing us entertainment into the foreseeable future.
Bonny & Read is the current show that started last night with a 2 week run until Saturday 4th December. It is a new musical play based on the trials of Captain Rackham and his pirate crew in Jamaica in 1720, history meets myth in this real life story of the remarkable cross-dressing women pirates Anne Bonny & Mary Read and their fateful encounter with the infamous Jack Rackman, also known as Calico Jack.
It is a story of exceptional female bravery, adventure and survival against all odds with promises of many twist and turns along the way. It certainly looks a very interesting show and one not to miss so get booking as I have the feeling it will prove popular.
Also great news to report they are once again able to stage a Christmas show and tickets have just been released for Kindred Spirits, a hair raising comedy that truly celebrates the festive spirit. Expect ghosts, chaos and mayhem from the award winning team behind Hound of the Baskervilles, Cinderella and the Invisible Man.
It starts on Tuesday 14th December and runs for nearly a month, through to Saturday 8th January. Obviously there are some key dates over the Xmas/New Year period when there is no performance. There are also three socially distanced performances during the run when all other shows will be run with full capacity. For these dates, further details and to book tickets see here.
I should warn you that the Christmas show at the Jack always sells out and so I would advise you to get booking early to avoid disappointment. I certainly hope to be there.
Rivoli Ballroom 
This stunning local venue is just 5 minutes from my house and as I have often said it has a special place in my heart and I feel very lucky that I was able to celebrate my 60th at the Rivoli, just 6 months before the pandemic struck.
I hope most people reading this blog will have been to this SE4 gem if you are local but I am constantly surprised at how many residents haven’t yet been inside. If ever you get the opportunity please don’t hesitate to take it as the outside is TOTALLY deceiving and I guarantee you will be amazed.
Since June the Rivoli has been hosting regular events both discos and film nights that have proved very popular. The Xmas extravaganza, run by Rouges Disco, is on Saturday 11th December but unsurprisingly has been sold out for a while. However if you want to go along to the ballroom before Xmas they are showing some classic festive films in the week before Christmas starting with Home Alone 2 on the 16th December and then Love Actually, Elf and Die Hard.
There is also a popular Jive Party evening with a live band and beginners jive lesson taking place on Saturday 18th December with tickets still available.
To see out 2021 tickets have gone on sale for their very popular New Year’s eve party on the 31st. Normally they only allow over 21’s onto the disco floor but this night they make it a good old family event with children over 6 being allowed entry. Many local families team up and go together and have a very special evening. Expect party hats, poppers and streamers at the stroke of midnight.
This didn’t happen when my kids were younger but if it did I would certainly of wanted to be there. I’m sure tickets will sell out very quickly so I would look to book asap.
Finally tickets are on sale for the monthly Rouge discos in 2022 starting with Saturday 29th January and then dates of 26th February, 26th March and 28th April.
For details and timings of all the above events and links to book tickets see here.
Catford Mews
As many will be aware who read my blogs and follow me on Twitter I am a huge fan of Catford Mews and am always amazed to think it has only been with us since September 2019 as it has quickly established itself as a firm destination to go to in the area. To think it still hasn’t had a full *normal* operational year of running is still a surprise to me-let’s keep everything crossed that it will achieve that going into 2022!
Since re-opening at the end of May I think it has done well and attracted new people/audiences. With the arrival of the James Bond film and Dune these 2 blockbusters alone will have provided a much needed boost in numbers for many cinemas, including the Mews.
There are also some big releases coming up in the next few weeks with the House of Gucci, Spencer and Ghostbusters:Afterlife and with other family films I’m sure/hope it will prove very popular over the festive period as everyone likes to go to a good film together.
There are also various events happening at the Mews and at the bar you can now get mulled wine to warm you up and get you in the Xmas mood besides getting something to eat from the various food outlets at Compound Coffee, Fuse, Twerk n Jerk & My Kibris Kitchen.
Finally to say I’ve just been reminded to renew my membership which I will certainly do as they have been very generous with carrying over membership for all of the time due to the various lockdowns. For me 60+ membership is only £25 which gives me 4 free cinema tickets, discounted tickets, no booking fees and 10% off all food and drink-an absolute bargain!
An adult member is only £40 with lots of other interesting membership options-check out prices and details here. Why not give a friend/family member Catford Mews membership as a Xmas pressy-Just a thought but I’m sure it would be appreciated if they live local. If you haven’t yet been down to this exciting venue then pop down and visit as you will be delighted to discover this 3 screen cinema on your doorstep.
Every year in my Christmas blog I do a shopping guide to local shops and businesses in the area. I would often copy and paste it from the previous year with updates but have decided that I won’t do that this time as it was getting too long and rambling. This should therefore be much shorter than normal but hopefully cover most businesses that sell goods/items/gifts under the various categories.
Remember I’m only really covering Crofton Park, Honor Oak, Brockley, Ladywell and Catford so apologies if I have left out any of your favourite shops-I can’t begin to cover further areas as this blog would go on forever!
Many of our independent shops have had a very torrid time with closures for many months over the last year. If we want them to survive it is vital that we use them in this very important period leading up to Xmas. Please try and SHOP LOCAL rather than the big chains, multi nationals and large online retailers. Every £ spent in your area is so invaluable to the local economy and everyone benefits/wins.
There are a number of lovely gift/homeware shops in the area.
Gentle Home is now in 3 parts of the borough namely the main road in Crofton Park, Ladywell village and Harefield Rd in Brockley. Shop here for many interesting/unique gifts and homeware.
Gently Elephant meanwhile is a very established popular shop in Brockley. It is mainly a children’s toy/book, clothes and shoe shop and so has lots of Xmas gifts.
Magi Gifts is also on the main Brockley Road and has to be one of my favourite shops in the area. I always love popping in here and choosing a pressy for a friend, with great recommendations from Maggie and the rest of the staff. They have a great selection of gift items for all price ranges from pocket money to more luxury goods. The men’s section is also very impressive. Plus they have a big stock of gorgeous Xmas decorations which I personally can’t resist and so every year add to my growing sparkly collection.
Over in Honor Oak on the main parade we have the equally beautiful Jumping Bean on the corner with Ballina St. It is a very popular shop in SE23 and is open 7 days a week selling children’s toys in the back room with lots of gifts/cards/jewellery, some clothes and homeware in the main front area.
A new addition to Brockley Cross is My Dream Jewellery which opened in the summer. It certainly is worth popping in for a different gift especially if the recipient likes sparkly costume jewellery. The owner May also sells lots of bags suitable for children and early teens plus other items. If haven’t been yet I would suggest now is a good time to check it out.
In midtown Brockley Lorenzo Records opened last year along the small parade at the end of Wickham Road. This is a great shop if you are into new and second hand vinyl and is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
My final entry in the gift section is the House of Catford which is open every weekend in the beautiful refurbished double unit on Catford Broadway. It is also online. There is a large selection of items/clothing for sale celebrating the local area such as the popular hoodies & sweatshirts with CATFORD on them and clothing includes babywear.
There are now 3 cookbooks for sale-the Lewisham cookbook, the Catford cookbook and the Liquorsmiths cookbook with the first 2 beautifully illustrated by local artist Nancy Ellis. Indeed local traders and creatives are supported in this pop up & online shop.
There are also many other items for sale including the new and proving unsurprisingly popular Lewisham & Catford Gin. To see all the range pop in to the shop or check out online here.
In relation to BOOKS we now have a new bookshop in the area I cover with the addition of what was Crofton Books (looking to come up with a new name at some stage) Jason opened the bookshop in April after it re-located over the winter from Crofton Community library. 
It is packed with books in both the large basement area and main ground floor space, with mainly second hand & vintage books but also a growing selection of new books. You can also pop in, order any book and it will be there in stock within 24 hours-even delivered to you if you ask nicely. This bookshop has proved very popular and a great addition to Midtown Brockley so add it to your list for local Xmas shopping destinations.
Meanwhile Moon Lane Ink Books celebrates their 4th Christmas over on the South Circular on the borders of SE6 and SE23. It is a beautiful shop and specialises in children’s books but includes an adult section and gifts/games/cards so is certainly one to check out for festive ideas.
Crofton Park has 2 lovely clothes shops with both the Workshop and Paraphernalia.
Paraphernalia has been 24 years now on the main Brockley Road and Mandi sells new, nearly new and vintage/designer clothes and accessories. It is offering discounts/refreshments this Saturday during Croftmas and giving out goodie bags so an excellent time to pop in.
The Workshop is situated on the corner of Ewhurst Rd and Donna sells/designs and alters clothes. I have just had a pinafore made with my own material and pattern and am delighted with it. She also sells some sewing accessories/haberdashery and you can buy vouchers to use in the shop which make a great alternative pressy/treats for someone.
A piece of art/crafts/ceramics makes a great unique Xmas gift and we are so lucky to have a wealth of creative talent locally to buy from many of which will be trading at the markets/fayres I have listed in the opening section on events. Havelock Walk will be selling art at their Open Studios in December but we also have a new addition in the area for buying art with the opening of the Artdog Gallery in April on Brockley Rise.
This new gallery in SE23 is currently showing an exhibition of original seasonal gifts & decorations by local artists and artdog regulars so a great time to pop in and say hello to Pippa, the gallery owner.
We are very lucky to have some excellent delicatessan’s/grocery shops in our immediate area and I personally think food/drink make great luxury/treat pressies particularly for that person who has everything! All the shops detailed below sell hampers I believe or allow you to create your own bespoke one.
The Larder in Ladywell has become a firm local favourite and this will be their 8th Xmas on the block. Extra supplies are coming in all the time and their opening hours are being extended with Mondays open in December and late nights on Wednesdays with 10% discount from 6-8pm. Pop in to this established business in the village and support.
Jones of Brockley in Crofton Park is another fave and whilst Michael wouldn’t describe the shop as a deli, more a grocers, it sells excellent quality food and drink items that make fab presents. For me the highlight of the shop is their cheese selection and I will certainly be once again creating a delicious festive cheeseboard from there.
Another place in SE4 to buy fine food and wine is L’Oculto along the main road in Midtown Brockley. Their hampers proved very popular last Xmas and you can totally create your own to either pick up in the restaurant or buy online. For details and ideas see here.
Sans Store is celebrating its second Xmas on Brockley Rise and has been a great addition to that part of SE23. It sells lots of interesting vegetarian/vegan foodstuffs plus other festive goodies/treats so is certainly worth popping into. It is open 7 days a week.
Other delicatessan’s in SE23 are Le Querce Daily, contained within the popular L’Querce restaurant. This is our only shop in the immediate area to sell fresh fish so pop down and order some for the festive period. They also have lots of Italian cheeses/meats/wines/beers and other goodies. The Brazilian grocers is also worth popping into along Brockley Rise along with Pat & Robs Emporium and Honor Oak Provender along the main Honor Oak parade.
I should like to also mention Good Food in Catford and now an additional branch over in Sydenham. Sadly both shops are a bit too far away for me to visit regularly but when I do go I love this grocery store/deli Biz and you always receive a warm and friendly welcome.
I will finish this particular section on food with adding that Marvellous Beans and Greens are celebrating their 2nd Xmas in Brockley Rise and I’m hoping they will have the cheeky singing/dancing aerial elf again at the shop which was popular with both kids and big kids alike.
On a serious note they will once again be offering a pre-selected Deluxe box of fruit and veg or you can customise your own and will be doing delivery or collection ready for the big day. I finally got round to doing one last year and was really pleased with it so will certainly be doing it again.
To conclude the food section I will write about Proud Sow, my local butchers and their new arrangements for Xmas. They are introducing big changes to how they operate over the festive period that will hopefully provide a more convenient service to customers and prevent long queues.
You must pre-book your Christmas order for all meat on their website and orders close by Sunday 5th December. The last normal counter service at the shop will be on Sunday 19th December and then they will be closed on Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd ready to open from the Wednesday to Friday for pick up only. To put in your order check out their website here. It all sounds very sensible and a good workable solution.
We are very lucky to have some wonderful local businesses selling quality beer in the area. Craft beer is continuing in popularity and sales will only increase as the festive period approaches, both for personal consumption, taking round to friends/family or as presents.
WaterintoBeer opened in August 2016 in Mantle Rd on the west side of the tracks in Brockley whilst on the east side Salthouse Bottles opened a month later. Both are great SE4 Biz and if you haven’t yet been to either pop in and pay them a visit. Both Tim, Richard and all the staff at both shops have extensive knowledge & enthusiasm for beer plus cider & other alcohol choices.
Meanwhile I mustn’t forget the highly popular Brockley Brewery on Harcourt Road who sell their own beer in gift sets for Xmas plus other pressy ideas with their brilliant branding such as T shirts/tea towels etc. I should add here that Jones of Brockley, the Larder, Good Food, Sans Stores & Le Querce Daily also sell a good selection of craft beers.
Meanwhile for fine wine, champagne and other alcohol beverages you can’t go wrong with visiting Jerome’s Wine Bar in Crofton Park with an excellent selection to suit all tastes and price range.
Finally down in Catford a great place to pop in for Xmas pressy ideas is Bottle Bar & Shop with their award winning bottled cocktails. Their Christmas in a Bottle & Christmas Negroni always prove highly popular & have new attractive festive labels whilst there are many miniature bottled cocktails to create a great Xmas gift selection.
Christmas Trees 
There are 2 main big outlets I always mention in the area locally selling Xmas trees but I can add a new one this year as the Perry Hill Pub is teaming up with Plant Your Future so that every tree bought one will be planted in the Amazon, as well as the UK. These will be available to buy from the pub/Xmas tree shop from Saturday 27th November.
Meanwhile the nearest largest supplier to me is outside the Crofton Park Community library. John and Louise of Clickmas trees will be set up again this year from this Saturday (the 27th) and are always a popular choice with lots of trees of all sizes and prices-I understand they deliver locally for free. I should also add here that once again they are gifting the Crofton Park and Honor Oak community trees which should appear within the next week so big thanks for their generosity.
Finally the wonderful family run business over in SE23, Shannon’s Garden Centre, already have lots of Christmas trees, in fact a forest, and I believe they are flying out of the door! They have potted and cut Nordman (non drop) a small selection of traditional spruce and premium cut Fraser fir trees.
Shannon’s also have lots of other festive decorations, and a really large selection of LED lights for indoor and outdoor use. I also think plants/gardening tools/pots/tokens make great Xmas pressies so pop down and support our only independent run garden centre in the immediate area.
Christmas trees will of course be sold in lots of other local shops such as Budgen’s, Ladywell DIY and of course the local florists
I want also in this section to add a paragraph about the beautiful addition to Brockley Rise that opened at the end of May, namely Mmea. This shop mainly specialises in indoor plants, from small succulents/cactus’s to huge statement exotic plants and everything in between.
However on going into their instagram pages I can see that they are also selling Xmas trees plus bespoke wreaths, both dried and fresh. They also have a growing selection of candles/homeware/books and other great gift ideas. Altogether a fantastic excuse to pop in to this stunning SE23 shop if not already been and certainly a worthy addition to the local shopping guide.
I will round off this shopping guide with an incredible resource that Sarah from Pip and Lil has collated of small Indie Businesses called the ‘Small, Indie and Mighty Christmas Gift Guide’ and it has a grand total of 175 small Biz with details of each and links to their website or etsy/instagram page. Most of them don’t have a physical presence and so rely on online sales or attending markets with their own craft stall. Please SUPPORT these amazing small businesses so that they can continue trading into 2022 and beyond. For the fab guide click here.
On a final note that totally links in with the above check out the Just a Card campaign that was set up by Sarah Hamilton in 2015. It has been a very effective grassroots campaign that has gained in momentum with the mission to encourage SUPPORT for artists/makers/independent shops and small businesses. Every sale, even Just a Card, is vital for their prosperity and survival.
This week is Just a Card Indie week to counteract the big corporate Black Friday sales and they have been doing lots of effective campaigning and promotions-check them out here.
Crofton Park Community Library 
Since I last wrote in September there is great news to report that more volunteers have come on board and so from the beginning of this week the opening hours of the library have been extended.
They are now open Monday & Thursday 10-6pm and also Fridays and Saturdays 10-1pm and so will be open for CROFTMAS this coming Saturday morning. I have already mentioned the craft sessions running on that day under the entry for the event above. Throughout December they are putting on a full programme of Plastic Free craft events at the library-for details check out the website here as ideally need to book ahead.
The library provides free Wi-Fi and free access to computers which is a great local resource. Baby Bounce is back from the 26th November (tomorrow) and the popular Crofton Park History with Carol and Mike returns from the 4th December at 11am. It all sounds fantastic and looks like this venue is once again becoming the community hub of Crofton Park.
Finally to mention that Clickmas are returning to the forecourt this weekend with their popular Xmas trees for sale-this is mentioned in more detail under the shopping guide above.
For all information and updates on what is happening at the library you can subscribe here to be part of the monthly mailing list.
Crofton Park Community Railway Garden
The beautiful community garden is a special place in the area that is very dear to my heart. I have already mentioned it under events as this Saturday we are having an Xmas market to coincide with the CROFTMAS celebrations so please pop down and support.
We are always wanting to improve the garden and recently an application has been submitted for a NCIL grant bid to add enhancements. 131 local residents responded to our survey asking what they would like to see in the space with the majority of people saying they would like it improved for children’s play. More wildlife, along with more seating was also popular. We understand this bid for money will be presented to a ward assembly meeting in the New Year for a public vote so we hope we can then count on your support.
The other big news to pass on is that we need to build a bigger and better compost bin inside the garden to manage our green waste. However it costs a lot of money and so a fundraising page has been set up on the Railway garden website for donations. Every £ helps towards this essential item of equipment. The link to the donation page is here.
Finally please also subscribe on the website so that you can hear directly about future volunteer days events.
The Fourth Reserve
We are so lucky in Crofton Park to have two beautiful outdoor community spaces. If you haven’t yet been inside the local nature reserve then this Saturday (27th) is an opportunity as they are holding a volunteer day from 11-1pm and there are lots of tasks to do so bring garden gloves and pop in to help if you can. Meanwhile if you would rather just take a stroll then the gate will be open between these times to wander in and appreciate this special outdoor space.
Just a few hundred metres down the road the Dandy Park revival group held a very successful community event at the end of the reclaimed Courtrai Road area at the beginning of the month. Many local residents turned up to hear and contribute their ideas for this space. There is also an air of optimism that with the pressure by the Council on the developer, who owns the land with the Scout Hut and the woodland surrounding it, there may finally be a positive outcome/solution in sight.
To conclude here I want to say that a Lewisham Community Lottery scheme has just been launched with the first draw this Saturday. The Fourth Reserve are one of the community groups participating in the scheme and so for every £1 ticket purchased the organisation gets back 50p. You are entered into the prize draw with a chance of winning a £25,000 jackpot-Win win! For details and to buy tickets see here.
Speeding and Road Safety Issues in Crofton Park
Since I last wrote in September the situation of dangerous driving/speeding in the area has only got worse with a 10 year old girl taken to hospital after being struck down by a car along the main Brockley Road. The details of this accident are still not clear but it has understandably upset many local residents.
Our local councillors have been doing a lot behind the scenes to try and come up with ideas/solutions, put pressure to improve road safety and have recently met with the Council. Sadly any measures need money and as we are all aware there are considerable financial constraints within Local Authorities at the moment so there is no magic wand that can instantly be waved.
To help put pressure on the necessary authorities local resident Siobhan Armstrong set up a petition last week to request urgent action is taken to address the road safety issues along Brockley Road. In just over a week it has attracted 800 signatures but we urgently need MORE so if you haven’t already please SIGN the petition-it really only takes less than one minute to do and then verify with your email. To sign see here.
The Brockley Jack Pub are putting on LOTS of Xmas events-pop in & check out/Frothy coffee Hut now open every Saturday & Sunday at Forster Park 8-4pm/At Blackheath on December 4th Harmony Sinfonia are performing their winter concert-see here for tickets/Good as Gold will be closed from 24th December to 2nd January for a well deserved break/The popular ice cream parlour Sundae, SE4 just celebrated 2 years on the block-pop down & support/Taca Taco are proving very popular at Brickfields Bar-serving from Thursday to Saturday 6-9pm/New seasonal dishes on the menu in December at the stalwart Orchard bar-restaurant/Pop into Deja Brew in Midtown Brockley for good hearty food-great value/Check out the new outside canopy at Fred’s in the back garden area-good for rain & protection from the sun/Jay’s of Budgen’s Indian food at Beecroft for Croftmas plus delicious home-made samosa’s every weekend in-store/Beautiful candles for sale at the Workshop handmade by local Crofton Park resident, Alex/Live music at Hattush, SE23-next night is 18th December plus taking Xmas dinner bookings/Pop into the friendly Two Spoons for either breakfast/brunch/lunch or dinner plus enjoy a cocktail or 2/Did you know that Le Querce Daily now do lunches-pop in to this Brockley Rise biz/Parlez have just started doing their popular Sunday roasts again-check out/Monday at the Chandos is back with their £7 pizza deal-a bargain/Did you know Babur restaurant are doing a Xmas day feast-limited spaces available/Blue Room are doing their delicious chocolate truffles, homemade macarons and Xmas pastry box again-see here for details/Lewisham Local have been amazing during the pandemic, co-ordinating so many different things in the borough-check out the range of activities they cover on their website here/VSL Xmas appeal has a large bin at Jay’s Budgens for donations/Award winning Brockley’s Rock cater for events & parties-check them out/Still some tickets left (see here) for Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet (HSDY) event on Friday 3rd December at Brockley Brewery-promises to be a great night-see you there/The Croft are doing daily delicious soups Monday to Friday/Sister Midnight’s next fundraising event is at the Fox & Firkin, on 4th December-tickets £10-pop down & support/Lewisham Foodbank needed even more this Xmas-winter so please donate-buy a few extra food items at Jay’s and drop them in the bin/Have you popped into the beautiful new Le Delice cafe over in Hither Green yet-check it out/Lots of different menu’s and Xmas choices at Crofton Park Tavern-even have a few spaces for Xmas day if you are quick/Catford Film are putting on a free showing of Crazy National Lampoons Christmas Vacation at Nineth Life Sunday 28th November 8pm/The family show this year at The Albany is Snow Queen from 4th December to 31st December/So Last Century Xmas vintage market is on Sunday 5th December at AMP studios, Peckham/For a family treat over the holidays I would recommend Lightopia, a light and sound show over in Crystal Palace Park/Did you know Lewisham is celebrating next year as the Borough of Culture-all very exciting and I’m attending the launch event tomorrow so will find out more.
Okay that’s it I’ve ran out of steam and keep finding new events to add and it will go on forever if I  don’t stop now! ( And it is nearly 11K words so once again a dissertation!)
There certainly is a full set of Christmas events this year with only a few local organiser’s deciding to not hold the markets/fayre’s that normally take place annually.
Last year we had many streets decorate their house/gardens/windows with delightful art/craftwork and colourful lights-will the same happen in December-I hope so as it was a great idea for creating community pride and really brightened up the area.
As I have been writing this blog gradually over the past 10 days my feelings as to whether everything will go ahead this year keeps changing but as I post it I’m more confident that we may just survive and that Xmas won’t get cancelled at the last minute-this could all change though at any time.
Whatever happens I can’t stress enough that if you are able to please get out and SUPPORT our fantastic local businesses. For their continuing survival they need us to SHOP/DRINK/EAT/USE LOCAL. The moto USE or LOSE has never been more important and applicable in these unprecedented times.
I hope everyone has a great time over this festive period-for us personally it will be lovely to have the new addition & excitement of our grand-daughter Jaya with us for her first Xmas-okay it’s not one she will remember but I’m confident we certainly will.
Keep safe and healthy
Bye for now and see you in 2022
Jane x
For local updates and information follow @JaneCanDoSE4 on twitter here