Down the Cally

Down Caledonian Road, Pleasure Garden 24hr Sauna and Spa, London Taxi Social Club, Istanbul Social Club, Tattooing parlour. Rundown paint-peeling Caledonian Arms on the corner of Blundell St. The pub has stopped trading but Pentonville prison opposite is doing a roaring trade with double the number of inmates it was built to house in 1842 as a new-model prison specialising in solitary confinement. One of the first LCC estates to be built borders the prison, on the site of the old Caledonian Asylum which gave this traffic choked road its name (they used to call it Chalk Road). This street was once packed with breweries, the air pungent with the smell of hops and malt replaced by bareknuckle Irish boozers with Gaelish signage and brawling on the pavement outside.

Turning into Market Road there’s the Hayward Adventure Playground, Indoor Tennis Centre and Astroturf football pitch on the site of the old animal lairs for the Metropolitan Cattle Market moved up here from Smithfield in 1855. They could keep 6000 beasts here in commodious accommodation. The only remnants I can find are the rusting metal posts of the cattle shed and a crumbling brick wall in an overgrown ditch that runs up the back of the tennis courts and the football pitch. The only thing agricultural round here now are some of the tackles in the Islington Midweek League.

In Market Road Gardens there’s a rusting sundial topped with small metal cows. I hear a voice behind me. “Are you OK?” It’s a working girl from Market Road. I’d been warned in the bulletin put out by the Friends of Caledonian Park: “Sex Workers use the park and accost people on Market Road.” The whores have been pushed north by the development of Kings Cross. This is a red light district now. Pimps, prostitutes, kerb crawlers, undercover police surveillance twitching in the bushes, men reading their papers get approached for business. It’s a different kind of meat market now. The girls have the faces of ghosts, the spirit has departed the body for protection. The Gazette carries the gruesome story of a prostitute picked up in Market Road then pushed out of the seven and a half tonne lorry after rowing about the cost of oral sex and crushed to death under the back wheels.

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