This time last year I didn’t have the faintest notion that living in London again would be back on the cards. Before I moved in with The Writer, I was living alone (albeit with Colin, who took up enough space I might as well have had a human-sized flatmate) in my own house in Home County, in the most quietly genteel of quiet, genteel English market towns. But since February, home has been a one-bed flat in the middle of decidedly less quiet and genteel Brixton which – and this has come as a greater surprise to no one but myself – I love.
Because, if I’m brutally honest, I really didn’t expect to.
“Oh. That’s, er, an interesting choice, darling,” said The Mother when I told her the plan over a cup of tea, my having nipped down to the parents’ place – then some ten minutes’ walk – to ask sheepishly whether they would take in my soon-to-be-homeless feline. As someone who comes into London only for the Chelsea Flower Show, The Mother has certain preconceptions about Brixton – preconceptions that were only exacerbated by people helpfully taking to its streets last summer with rioty fervour.
“No, it’s fine,” I said, not wanting to let on that I shared a few of the same concerns. “I mean, it’s brilliantly foodie, and there are loads of great little bars, and restaurants, and I’ll be a 30-minute commute from the office, and it won’t cost an arm and a leg in train fare, and, well, there’s a farmers’ market – it possibly can’t be that stabby, can it?!”
As it turns out, it is brilliantly foodie, and it is a 30-minute commute from the office, and – so far at least – it isn’t stabby in the slightest. We’ve a quiet flat on a leafy street; friends round the corner; and Brockwell Park is a stone’s throw when we need a bit of greenery (or, as I discovered last Sunday, a dog show). Sure, it could do with a few fewer crazies, but otherwise: top marks.
But when it comes to other people sharing my opinion on the place, I have decidedly mixed emotions.
On the one hand, it’s great that friends aren’t terrified of coming – gulp – South of the River; that they’re just as excited by the prospect of the rosemary chips in Honest Burger as I am; and I’m excited to frankly indecent levels that I have pulled off a successful lobbying campaign that results in PolitiGal and her chap moving into a flat approximately 90 seconds down the road in the next couple of weeks.
But I’m not so keen on lots of other people being so keen. It’s not that I’m afraid popularity will change the feel of the place, or that I’ve had a childish attack of inverse snobbery and resent “grads and PR girls” moving into the area, with their disposable incomes and support for local businesses [don’t get me started…]. It’s more that I’m desperately selfish, and don’t want an influx of people getting in my way, buying out the choice and bargainous lilies from the stand by the station, or making it even harder to get a table at the Bread Room for a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.
But it seems that the zeitgeist is working against me, with everyone singing the praises of the place. The Times recently did a piece on Brixton as a foodie haven, and with numerous journalists living in the area, these things are bound to happen: TW was inspired to do a piece on our local cocktail and pinxos bar a while ago, and Jay Rayner has, apparently, been a accused of running a one-man gentrification campaign for the area (we ran into Mr Rayner on the train on the way back from Latitude: whether our attempts to have him not review Cornercopia will be successful remains to be seen).
And now, as the godawful social meeja gurus would say, we’ve gone viral. A source no less esteemed and influential than the New York Times has outed Brixton as the place to eat when you’re in London. If I owned the flat we’re living in, I’d be ecstatic as it watched the people flood in and the rents rocket. As it is, I can only think of the queues outside Honest Burger, and wish to myself that people weren’t so quick to recommend the things they love.
Shuang Shuang, Chinatown
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