When I first moved to London at the very end of 2004, work took me to its West – first of all Ealing, later Chiswick. Next week I’m moving to Crouch End in North London, which might be every bit as distressingly middle class as Chiswick, but feels a bit less suburban than the leafy West. I’m not sure if I’ve come to know West London especialy well; the list of what I’ll miss about it turns out to be a slightly odd read…
Although where I live at the moment is in many ways remote from central London, it’s very well connected: you can get to most places from it pretty straightforwardly, even if it takes a long time. It’s only a short bus ride away from Shepherd’s Bush, however, which means that gigs at the Empire and recordings at BBC Television Centre have been within pleasingly easy reach (in fairness, the Hammersmith Apollo is convenient too, but I think I’ve only been about twice).
West London Trades Unions Club I may well come back here fairly regularly, as I only visit it once a month anyway, for the Off The Page writing group. The building itself has a rather nice bar downstairs, with internet access and real ale, and although the toilets have seen better days it’s overall a rather nice facility. There are newspaper clippings on the walls of the building’s opening by Ken Livingstone in his GLC days, upstairs in the theatre space.
Turnham Green The Green itself is famously (ish) nearer to Chiswick Park Tube station than Turnham Green itself, and the open space and church make it arguably the nicest stretch of the Chiswick High Road, although it contains undoubtedly its least interesting selection of shops. That said, they do include one of the post-Fopp record stores than have sprung up using the old racks and so on from the branch of Fopp that used to serve the area… but curiously not actually in the same building.
London Overground My closest station isn’t on the Tube at all, but is South Acton, now part of the Overground network – specifically, on the North London line that arcs from Richmond, up through Camden and into Stratford. Typically, the improvements to the network are coming on-stream just as I move away from it, with some rather snazzy new trains replacing the creaking old units I’ve been crammed into for the last few years. Crouch Hill station is in fact on a different part of the Overground network, but with even less frequent services, apparently, and no new trains (yet). Still on a transport tip, the London Transport Museum Depot is the only tourist attraction in walking distance of where I currently live.
The Swan A gastropub, but a nice one. Closest thing I’ve had to a local.
Heathrow Airport? When I lived in Ealing, the flightpath was neatly positioned to give me enough noise to drown out the telly at some points. From my front room now, I can see the planes go past at some times of day, but not particularly hear them. I still get caught out by A380s – I always think they’re flying really low, but in fact they’re just really big. Despite over four years working next to the airport, that’s about as far as my aircraft recognition skills have got.
The Cunnington Street Mosaic The whole of the back of this house is decorated in a garish mosaic, as is the owners’ pick-up truck. Click through to the Flickr page for a fuller explanation, but I must have walked past it several hundred times and still missed a lot of the details on this section on the back wall in particular.
It’s a short list, and perhaps an unkind one. There are lots of other notable things about this part of London, but they are ones I’ve never had much involvement with. Ealing film studios (I’ve walked past them), Kew Bridge Steam Museum (never did visit it), Brentford football club (went to a gig in their bar once). Eden Studios was just round the corner from my current flat – I must remember to try and find its exact location before I move… The BBC’s Windmill Road storage facility was located just round the corner from where I used to live in South Ealing, but I don’t think I ever saw it – it must be situated back from the road, or just inconspicuously signposted (indeed, West London is littered with BBC heritage, including TVC, the formerly BBC-owned Ealing studios, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, formerly the BBC Television Theatre, the “Acton Hilton” rehearsal rooms…). I’m sure there’s more to list… but I won’t.
That about wraps it up for West London, I think. I can’t claim any special kinship of sense of belonging to the area… But I’ve got used to it and come to feel comfortable round here, which is something. Confusingly, several of the bus routes through Crouch End have the prefix “W”, which I’m sure will remind me of West London post codes for years to come.