Tuesday, November 25, 2003
I live in North London, no more than a whore's toss from King's Cross. I've done so for the past four years, the longest time I've ever lived anywhere in the capital. Over my twenty-odd years of a gypsy and rootless existence in London, I've had flats in the south, west, east and the centre, and even, for one ghastly year of mediocrity, in Twickenham. But no matter where I've hung my hat or baseball cap, I've always been pulled back by that umbilical cord connecting me to North London. And this time it looks as though I'm settled and here to stay.
I love the area's elevated position above the City, so that, no matter where you are, you're either looking down on something (in my case, the dome of Saint Paul's) or up at the green of Highgate and Hampstead, and the good old Ally Pally in the distance. I love its juxtaposition of rich and poor, grunge and glitter, and wide ethnic mix from the Greeks and Turks in Green Lanes to the Irish and Extraterrestrials of Camden Town.
Some of the best times of my life have been spent in posh N1 and NW3 (and even better times in not-quite-so-posh NW1 and N7). My first real London mates were here, and we'd meet up regularly, even though, at the time, I lived fifty minutes' tube ride away to the west in Ealing. Even today, we occasionally bump into each other in the very same local we frequented all those years ago. It was also here that I used to – well, let's not get into that here, shall we?
I've had some of the worst times of my life here too: break-ups and bust-ups, even the murder of someone I knew, and my heart was once broken, perhaps irreparably, on the bottom deck of the Number Nineteen bus.
I remember the tube station when it was just one murky muggers' delight, and not the hi-tech hamster-run it is today. I can recall a time when there were more Oxfam shops on the high street than restaurants and DJ bars, and when that trendy and quite unnecessary new loft development was an award-winning comprehensive. Why, I go so far back that I even have race-memories of Camden before the Goths touched down, and the Market when it was actually rather good and one of London's best-kept secrets.
It's these memories, good and bad, which link me to my patch of North London, and make me care what's going to happen to that little development down the road, or persuade me to sign the petition to save that building on the corner from demolition. Of all the London "villages" in which I've lived, this is the one that's shaped me, the one place I feel I most belong.
And to feel that you belong, particularly in London, and especially for a single gay man, well, I think that's something worth blogging about.