Shopping. Balham is a Mecca for discerning shoppers from as far away as Tooting, and until the 1980s, even boasted its own "private shop", handily situated within two minutes' walk of the local secondary school. Unfortunately, concerned citizens, or "busybodies", as any self-respecting connoisseur of BDSM, unusual practices, and loose morals would call them, successfully campaigned to close it down. Now that the flagship 99p Store is boarded-up, it has been replaced in the community's affection by TK Maxx with its exhausting racks of fake designer labels.
Accommodation. Best value for money is the Travel Lodge, conveniently placed right next to the station. Just ignore the homeless person sleeping on the steps as you enter. A word of warning that, unfortunately, you might find yourself being woken at some God-forsaken hour, as the station announcements begin with the first train before 6am.
Transport. With links to all the major attractions and tourist destinations: Colliers' Wood, Croydon and Streatham Common, Balham is conveniently placed for central London, Gatwick Airport and a quick getaway, although for some obscure reason, the Gatwick Express fails to stop here, and speeds through the station as fast as possible.
Leisure amenities. Just ten minutes' walk across the common from Balham, is the famous Tooting Bec Lido open-air freshwater swimming pool which dates back to 1906. It is the largest freshwater swimming pool by surface area in the United Kingdom, being 100 yards long and 33 yards wide. If you fancy a dip, it's best to don a wet suit, as it can be a bit nippy. Best of all, stay out of the water and just watch the shivering, young ladies and gentlemen with their erect nipples and cold-shrivelled genitalia. After dark why not join the locals in some "off-piste" activities in the car park? Be sure to take "protection" though.
Food & Drink. Balham is known as a foodie's paradise. Highly recommended is Flavas, best known for fried chicken, and its clientele of overweight school children. The local council rated this renowned establishment as having "little or no knowledge of food hygiene". Of course, should fried chicken not be your thing, then why not try the fusty old gits' pub The Moon Under Water? This Wetherspoon's establishment is named after George Orwell's dream pub. God knows why.
Points of interest. The Sewing Machine Museum is open one day a month, so be sure to time your stay to catch this must-see occasion. On Balham High Road, you will also see Irene House, which was bombed to no great affect by the IRA in 1974 when it was an outpost of the DHSS. IRA members were apparently angered when they were told their giros were lost in the post.
Night life. The Bedford Hill area of Balham was associated with street prostitution throughout the 1970s and '80s but, unfortunately, this has since been eradicated, driving the ladies of the night elsewhere, probably onto the internet where we are sure a lonely male holidaymaker can find some light relief.