Edmonton was certainly not to be found in any sane tourists itinerary. The north London overground station of Edmonton Green was home to the debauchery elite, and the Tottenham Hotspurs (Come on you Spurs). The White Horse stood on the edge of the high road with all the bells and whistles of probable cause. The bar was split evenly. One in the front used only on match days—accumulating to a half dozen times a year. This meant the building looked abandoned for most of its lifetime. The main bar was accessible down an alleyway your parents no doubt warned you to avoid.
The two floors above it were occupied by a hundred souls of different colours and creeds. An anonymous black door with a steel cut ‘8’ symbol plastered on the front was the calling sign — If you checked your expectations at that door, as I luckily did all those years ago, then my friend, you had found the right place.
The bar itself was like any other you’d expect to find in England. A string of known brands occupying the bar itself, a small selection of nuts and crisps hung in a foreign order. Guinness always on, all spirit bottles held upside down with Jameson holding the most lubricated joint.
There was an oft used dart board in the foyer. A television showing the football in the top corner on the far side near the entrance leading upstairs. A pool table for bets to be settled next to the entrance to a side entrance and smoking garden. The garden housed five old tables with rusted ashtrays and an actual garden tended to by one or two of the workers. The bathrooms were separated by a large margin to ensure illicit activity was done with privacy. The bartender was more or less the lead actor in the daily tale. Typically alone, they also served as the innkeepers.
My first was Emil. The man whom I would eventually call a brother in the circle of freaks I have come to call family. Of course the second day of knowing him I was accustomed to the sight of him haphazardly holding his towel with a cheshire grin across his face &his bare ass on display on the exit.
Then, there was Sarah, the ‘quiet’ sister who provided many lessons in logical reasoning. Geza (Geeeeeza for short), the wise uncle whom had provided the calming voice to a cacophony of idiotic chaotic reasoning that we became fluent in providing, and, Andi—the mother by proxy for so many lost souls that passed through ‘the cheapest hostel in London’. There were others, but these were the main stayers on the Pale Horse.
This was home for a time. An invertible home for grown up orphans of all shapes and sizes, I learned so many skills not found in the tutorials that lay behind me. I cannot say I achieved the world of achievements that will not be remembered by anyone else. Grinding Spanish tobacco from a large zip-loc in the midst of a belting snowstorm or smoking a cheeky one out the window on Christmas morning is not exactly something to jot on the resume..
But I digress.
Seventeen months had passed in the capital. One hundred and nineteen weeks of waiting in line to take a shit. Eight hundred and thirty three days of waking up in a single bunk with a squeak symphony provided by the one above. All the while sleeping every night above the established establishment of The White Horse. Vertical wardrobes and backpack drawers. I still smile about it.
Room 2 was the creme de la creme of the home. Housing the CCTV display, a doorknob that required a bandana to operate and a bed supported by tennis balls for things such as loud —(Editors Note: Some Things Are Better Left Unknown…Trust Me)—ing. Room 2 was stationed neatly between two separate 20 person rooms which is how you’d expect to be in confined living, personal space became a luxury for the affluent and soon enough, a relic of a time gone by.
This little room was the mainstay for many moments of intense contemplation, everyone before us had injected a sense of identity and by god we would be injecting ours for better or worse. Working sixty hours was a hard enough tread, I spent more time on the underground than I care to recall. The Sunday mornings were the most memorable though. The bar opened a little late then. The bathrooms were outside so taking a piss involved a key and hope that none of the 98 other inhabitants were after the five bathrooms on offer.
This was my home, for better or worse, I had a family, a love and a destination, even if it wasn’t perfect, that’s what home was, and still is.
Hard to define what a home can be, or should be. I like to believe that a home is where hindsight becomes ever more present in its sweetness. Home is undoubtedly where the heart resides. Many have moved on to higher notions of living, quality shifts in love and understanding. I’ll never forget nor alter the memories I have in that beautiful spit of land I called home for 18 Months. I haven’t even begun the spin the tales of Seven Sisters, which is its own entire animal. A piece of my sun-dried heart will forever reside in hallways of the now abandoned orphanage for overgrown toys.
Nevertheless, the residual meaning behind this is simply the notion, hell, the fact that there was a time and place in the state of the world that not only welcomed our ubiquitously innocently sinful laden ways— but allowed us to become something more because of it. This little 2×4 room was Home, it’s where a piece of my heart will forever remain. I was told it closed recently, likely for good reasons. I never thought an actual breathing Neverland was too profitable.