Come to Walthamstow, we can take you to Gods Own Junk Yard, there’s gin and beer too. Well it’s an industrial estate actually, an industrial estate with a car park. Honestly, it’s much better than it sounds but I realise I’m not selling it very well. I had a conversation like this with some friends a few weeks ago. They were planning a trip to London, and decided to spend one of their days visiting us here in Walthamstow. We thought a trip to Gods Own Junkyard would be a good place to start their visit, I mean, you can’t go wrong with a building full of neon lights can you? They came over to see us on Saturday, by the time we met them off the train at central station, blind panic had set in. We were stood on the platform waiting for them to arrive, I turned to my other half and said “They’ve come all this way and we are taking them to an industrial estate”. We love Gods Own Junkyard, Mothers Ruin and Wildcard, but what if they don’t. What if they find themselves spending a day of their holiday in a car park in East London, wondering how it all went so very wrong.
We eased them in to their visit gently, wandering up the narrow path that runs along side the vestry house, pointing out the church and the ancient house, distracting them with half timbered buildings and grave stones. We couldn’t distract them forever though, before long we strolled through the gates that leads to Ravenswood industrial estate and announced, this is it, we’re here, ta-dah. Silence, if there had been tumble weed, this would have been the perfect time for it to blow past. One of their children looked up at me, she didn’t speak, but her look said a lot. You are a crazy person, parents, please escort me away from this place. Thankfully, the look on her face changed as soon as we walked in to the Junkyard. The rainbow glow of neon filled our field of vision, electric light in a hundred colours reflected on the youngsters blonde hair, changing it to shades of purple and red. This has more light bulbs than Blackpool, she said to me. I took that as a sign she liked it.
What’s a live topless bar, the older of their children asked me. She pointed to one of the Soho signs and asked again, what’s a live topless bar? Before I could answer, the younger girl shouted, Bill, why is Jesus in a shed with guns in his hands? My sense of panic briefly returned, how do I answer questions about Jesus and strippers? I’m not a parent, but I imagine this is a pretty tricky topic to discuss with nine and ten year olds. I don’t know why Jesus is in a shed, but isn’t he pretty, I said. Neither me nor the girl were convinced by my answer. He’s in a shed because it’s art, replied the older of the two girls, yes art, agreed the younger kid. They then trotted off to look at the big mirror ball with their Dad. Disaster averted, we continued to explore the neon jungle, ducking in and out of pools of light, walking past electric ice cream cones, stars and a neon bunny. Eventually we emerged back in to the daylight, blinking off the memory of neon, adjusting to the dull grey of the outside world.
Our adventure didn’t end there, we made the short walk to Mothers ruin and had a few cocktails, well, the adults had a few cocktails, the kids stuck to the soft drinks. As I was sipping my damson in distress, my mate said, this place is pretty cool isn’t it. I could feel pride starting to swell my heart, it is cool, it’s bloody cool, and it’s right here where I live. I shouldn’t have been worried about taking our friends to Gods Own Junk Yard, Mothers Ruin and Wild Card, I mean, where else in the world could you find a brewery, gin palace and a neon Jesus all in the same place. I would hazard a guess that this is a combination that only exists in one place, the peoples republic of Walthamstow. Gods Own Junkyard, Mothers Ruin and Wildcard may be based on an industrial estate, with a car park at its centre, but the presence of these three businesses make it anything but an ordinary car park. This is a neon wonderland, a paradise for real ale fans, the capital of cocktails. This isn’t just any old car park, this is Gods Own Car Park, and it’s wonderful.