Because of my ability to do things in a wonky order, after spending the last but one blog entry casually mentioning where I currently live, this entry explicitly unveils where I currently live: Stroud Green.
I really like Stroud Green. It’s nice. My first experience of the area was some years ago, when I went for a date with an Italian journalist who never gave any indication of whether she liked me or not, even while letting me stay in her bed and joining me to laugh at the unexpected snow on some half-forgotten January morning. Looking back via a prosaic lens, the joy quickly turned to irritation when I realised that the nearest tube station, Finsbury Park, was on the Victoria line, which – being underground it its entirety – was the only line running without severe problems. Which meant I had no excuse not to get to work on time. No excuse other than merely pretending I was embarking on my usual journey to work, I mean. Strangely this thought didn’t occur to me.
Fast-forwarding half a decade or so to the present, I’m currently living in a shared house with between 8 and fifteen other people scattered across between five and 7 separate rooms. There is no living room: the room we live in would have been the living room, in a past life, before the house became part of the exciting buy-to-let revolution which has led to a massive decrease in available social housing and a huge increase in terrible rentable shitholes squeezed for every last penny by unscrupulous landlords who should all be lined up and killed, or at least charged 90% in tax for every extra property they own. Because anyone who, in this crowded and house-price obsessed little island, owns more than one flat or house is, by definition, an enemy of the people.
Avoiding writing any more about my current living arrangements in order to avoid depressing myself, let me again reiterate that I like Stroud Green. It has plenty of good things going for it: a couple of fantastic pubs, such as the Faltering Fullback, which despite ostensibly being a rugby pub and having no real ale to speak of (London Pride doesn’t count) still remains the perfect example of a proper backstreet boozer. It’s even divisible into four clearly defined sections: the locals’ front bar, with high stools and tables, the main bar, and Irish fiddlers Irishing it up with some Irish tunes on a Sunday night; the ‘mid’ town area of the bar with nice seats and sensitive lighting, a good place to take a member of the opposite sex; and finally the cavernous student-venue style back section, with its indoor outdoor tables, pool table and sensible jukebox. And finally is the multi-layered outdoor section, which is a bit like the Amazon level of the crystal maze, but with more smokers.
It is also layered with lovely restaurants. There’s the wonderful Turkish place Petek, one of the finest Turkish restaurants in London; the brilliant and constantly packed Japanese/Korean place Dotori (try the combined menu, and see 100 years of Japanese-Korean tension destroyed in a mélange of bibimbap and sushi); the lovely BYOB simplicity of vegetarian Indian place Jai Krishna; and the psychedelic must-be-insane-to-even-enter cat-themed local Thai restaurant, cats. There’s also a good café – the Front Room – the lovely ex-trainline walk/cycle ride known as the Parkland Walk, and Finsbury Park itself. Posh enclaves such as Crouch End and Muswell Hill are short bus rides away. And you’re less than 30 minutes’ cycle away from Soho, so it feels like proper London, with its own sense of community and madness.
This is best expressed by the Stroud Green forum, one of the best online community forums I have ever seen. It is silly, it is witty; it is also useful, with accurate summaries of pubs, restaurants, local issues and whether “anyone [has] got any spare screw top jam jars please”
It’s likely I won’t be here much longer, and I’ve felt a bit isolated from certain friends (but given my nomadic London existence, I always feel a bit isolated from certain friends). But the place gets a double Paul Mc Cartney style thumbs up from me.
Also, I wrote this entry from the local Wetherspoons, and haven’t been murdered once.