19.10.13

Brixton Cool

I entered the world in a corridor of St Georges Hospital, Tooting; the new maternity wing wasn't finished on time so they had rows of poor women giving birth in the corridors - great start  huh! Anyway, my point being that my formative years were all spent south of the river and so now being back in with my parents, memories of my youth are flooding back! Mum and Dad still live in the same house that I grew up in and Nick and I are sleeping in my teenage bedroom! Weird to come back as a pregnant woman with her husband and have the same routine as I did when I was sixteen. I'm even going to join the swimming club at my old school, that really will be a blast from the past.


When I finished university I moved back south and bought my first flat in Brixton in 2004 when I was in my mid twenties and teaching in a school on Brixton Hill. The government gave me a whole heap of dosh to help me buy somewhere under the banner "key worker scheme". This was before teaching became a popular career choice and they were desperate to get people teaching in inner city schools, you even got paid to do your PGCE! It was also when Brixton was really cheap and I managed to pick up a lovely little two bed flat just up the hill in a Victorian terrace for what now seems like a pittance. Me and my buddies had a ball living it up in Brixton; lots of late nights out in Brixton's various darkened dives and  lots of hung over breakfasts at Negril cafe just over the road from my flat. Good times. 


So going back now (which I did for lunch today) is a wistful experience.  I sold up in 2010, just when Brixton was on the cusp of a sea change. I wasn't teaching anymore and was commuting to Notting Hill for work everyday, my best friend, who I shared the flat with, was moving out to get married and I fancied a change.. so north London beckoned. Don't get me wrong, Kensal Rise is lovely.. and cool ... and stylish ... and pretty smart these days BUT it's no Brixton. 


My friends who still live there assure me that there are still prostitutes frequenting their front gardens on a regular basis, that the sirens have not become any less annoying or continuous, that the streets are still littered with chicken bones everywhere you go; but still, Brixton has a vibe all of it's own and the supposed yuppification of it seems, to my eyes, only to have sanitised bits which desperately in need of sanitising and brought opportunity to a pretty deprived area.

We ate our lunch in one of the squillions of delicious looking eateries in Brixton market, ahem, village! The market is really the biggest transformation of the area. Previously I had only been down there circa 2005 to get some unusual part of my ear pierced and to frequent the ever popular Franco Manca. I then went when Time Out reported on some excellent (and cheap) pop up restaurants, but this was about three or four years ago and I remember it was a freezing winter's evening and although the food was good, there wasn't much of a buzz. Of course, I had read all the exciting news about Brixton Market and what a transformation had taken place, so I wasn't unprepared. But WOW, it is foodie heaven and now it is so buzzy we could barely get a seat anywhere. A victim of it's own success, my friend (and long time Brixton resident) wryly said.


It seemed to me, throughout my two hour wander and scoff, that most changes seemed for the better. It also seemed to retain a lot of it's old character and was totally recognisable as the Brixton I used to know, just with better public spaces and a fab foodie market. Take a different turn and you could definitely still buy an array of polyester underwear, fresh fish and stuff for your home you'll never really need (think novelty door mats and dressing gowns with Tupac's head on the back)


What it does have now is a lovely flower shop, food from all over the world, live music in the evenings and brilliant little independent nick nack shops. I didn't see an upholstery/vintage furniture retailer which got me thinking! 

Anyhow, the result of all this cultural improvement is that I can no longer afford to buy in Brixton; so Harlesden here we come! I don't want to beat up on my new home town, and I am very excited about owning a house and doing it up together, and of course having our baby there and making a little family home. But Harlesden is not Brixton, it's not even Brixton ten years ago! Yes it has the slightly dubious down at heal charm which Brixton still does used to have but it is missing the groovy factor which Brixton oozes and always will do. 

-The End-