Thursday, May 08, 2003
Stuck In The Middle
"I don't believe this Wood is a World at all. It's a place that isn't in any of the Worlds, but once you've found that place you can get into them all."
"The Wood Between The Worlds," said Polly. "It does sound rather nice."
- The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Most of my friends in London know where they're at. Geographically, at least. They live in Notting Hill or Hackney, Putney or Pimlico. All solid, identifiable, clearly-defined places. And they keep very much to their own turfs, adapting their personalities to fit.
I inhabit a wind-swept No-Man's Land at the top of a hill, one of those inner-city twilight zones, neither here nor there, not one thing or another. There's a N7 post-code, but the health-food emporia up the road, and the converted lofts on the corner, make it not exactly your standard patch of scraggy, mangy Holloway.
So when asked, I usually offer the non-specific "Oh, you know, just behind King's Cross." It's actually a fifteen-minute walk, but at least people can convert this information into J6-45 of the A-Z. There's also the added advantage of it sounding up-and-coming, but with just the right hint of red-light danger; as well as being reasonably central, thereby increasing the chances of a decent stop-over shag.
I pay my taxes to Islington Council, but not even the most imaginative estate agent would have the nerve to call this place Islington. Round here, my dears, it's Southern Fried and Special Brew on a bench in Cally Park, rather than polenta and Pinot Grigio down Granita way. And, while the walk to the Black Cap is just twelve minutes, the dearth of Bohemians, Japanese punks and Guinness drinking dens really rules us out from ever being considered part of Camden Town.
Which is precisely why I love the anonymity of the area where I live. It's my very own Wood Between The Worlds, letting me switch identities like a comic-book hero. Jump off in one direction and, in ten minutes, I'm playing the N1 media-babe, enjoying the chi-chi charms of Upper Street restaurants; jump off in the other, and, less than a quarter of an hour later, I'm deep among the goth 'n' grunge of Camden and some of the most cracking boozers in the world. And to the south, looking down from the top of the hill, I can even catch sight of the great dome of Saint Paul's and Norman Foster's Swiss-Re Tower, glittering in the early-morning sunshine.
Of course, none of this explains why I seem to spend most of my life on Old Compton Street. I suspect, however, that some of you may have figured that one out for yourselves.