There was a moment the other day, as I sat atop Telegraph Hill, watching the sunset over the skyline, Brockley Brewery beer in hand, that I thought to myself, ‘East London has nothing on this’. Shortly after thinking that, two Goldsmiths students nearly knocked me over as they play-fought all the way down the grassy slope and into a bin. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to start any beef with my pals north of the river. But what I mean is that SE doesn’t always get the love it deserves. And it deserves a hell of a lot.
You see, I moved from Hackney to Brockley just a few months ago – when lockdown started, to be precise. I’m half of one of those couples: the people who swiftly made the choice to cohabitate. And honestly, it’s been amazing.
My girlfriend has been extolling the virtues of this leafy corner of Lewisham for years (she’s joked that much like its near-namesake, the broccoli, it’s ‘green, crunchy and great for your health’). But it wasn’t until I became a perma-resident that I truly understood why.
In many ways, lockdown has been a wonderful time to get to know Brockley better. There are the green spaces – Telegraph Hill, Hilly Fields and nearby Ladywell Fields – and behind some of the centuries-old streets flanked by grand Victorian houses (now mostly flats), there are hidden laneways once used as driveways for carriages. These days, they’re secret, overgrown passages through time, marked by the odd shell of a car or mural of a bird, fox or bee.
Brockley buzzes with life and creativity: I yearn to catch a film at the gorgeous art deco Rivoli Ballroom when it reopens, or join locals in a pottery class at Lewisham Arthouse. My favourite cafe, Browns of Brockley, even has its own cute, arty merch.
You eat well here, too. Before lockdown, I'd spend blustery winter afternoons lingering over a pint and a nut roast at The Gantry, and evenings devouring hummus with fresh oven-bake pide at Meze Mangal. Its array of restaurants reflect the area’s diversity: you can eat top-notch Caribbean at Jerk Garden and the best Sri Lankan food for miles around at Everest Curry King (order the fiery aubergine, but don’t forget a dollop of raita to balance things out).
Brockley welcomed me like a new friend. Once lockdown is over, I’m going to get to know it so much better – and I can’t bloody wait.