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The International Writers Magazine
:Sundays in London

'Why do you live in Britain' - she asked.

Spending last Sunday with a visiting filmmaker from Turkey there were a lot of questions spinning around in her mind. Why is everything so expensive in England? (Because it cost a lot to keep the Ministry of Spin going.) Why are all the waiters from Poland? (Because no one has ever heard of an English waiter.) Why do people fall over all the time in London buses? (Somethings you can't answer)

Having a stranger in your life for a day makes you look a little harder at your own life and where you live. For example on Saturday night I didn’t go out. I stayed in and watched TV because I wanted to watch a two hour documentary (in prime time no less) by Alain de Botton about ‘Status Anxiety’. I can’t image anyone in Turkey or anywhere else in the world choosing to do this, but here in England it is possible on a Saturday night to watch good TV about a serious subject and I felt strangely rewarded.

Portobello Road on a Sunday

Holland Park London

'So why live in Britain?' she asked again.
Walking my new Turkish friend for a day through Ladbroke Grove and up along Portobello, I thought I knew why. The diversity for one. The sheer delight on her face as she looked into curious shops and cafes; the eclectic mix of architecture, the overall feel of the place makes one feel good. It doesn’t feel contrived, at least not on a Sunday, when the crowds have gone with their trinkets and trash from the Saturday stalls. I am conscious, of course, that I cannot ever aspire to live in this area, or even near this area. I cannot afford to rent here and that is sobering. Nevertheless, without saying anything, just walking through this area answers ‘why live in Britain’ quite neatly. I could have taken her into the Electric Cinema, a statement that at least one cinema has survived the onslaught of multi-plexes. But then I would have had to explain how the Coronet in Notting Hill is in danger (so I hear) of become a lap-dancer palace and well, that's not so good. (unless you are a lap-dancer.)

We continued on into Holland Park and watched the delight on kids faces as peacocks jumped from tree branches to another and fat sleek black rabbits nibble in the grass. Great, nothing in cages here. Holland Park is great place to walk in London. Small but initimate. Feeling flush? check the menu prices on the Belvedere Restaurant run by Marco Pierre White. If you are in luck there’s an art exhibition on at the Orangery next door, or, in summer, opera in the open air or tennis at the public courts. In summer the wisteria on the outside in full bloom is a sight to see.

I love this space between Notting Hill and Kensington. You don’t have to go broke eating around here either. There is New Culture Chinese opposite the new Marks and Sparks convenience store (once the restaurant Pharmacy) and if you nip through the park, our regular Cafe Marzano on High Street Kensington is always welcoming. Lydia has been our waitress for some years now and we feel disloyal if we eat somewhere else. I know it is a chain restaurant (owned by those lovely people who cram in the diners in Nandos) but it is the best of the chain.

Everywhere in London now there is a spirit of renewal and gentrification, most likely as a result of this vast property boom. It won’t last. None ever have, but it has been sustained long enough so that when another generation comes along, they will at least be able to identify it as the late nineties/early 00s boom and they will see the tidemark of it’s progress in unlikely places.

Our Turkish friend, is thinking of living here. Everyday thousands more flock to the UK with the same idea and bring skills and arts that will again reinforce the diversity of UK life and enrich our future. They come here because we are a tolerant society, they can pretty much say what they want without being locked up and that they can’t do that at home. We tend not to riot very much here, or fire of guns at each other and for that, I am grateful. Soon, very soon, I hope, we will also have a chance to remove this government, peacefully, without killing or locking up our rivals

I like living in Britain because we can change what we don’t like without force. We have fantastic consumer choice in everything (at a price). We also have religious tolerance (if not indifference). That’s freedom and it’s what makes us British, whatever colour or creed our Britishness takes.

*To Dine at the Belevedere (off Abbotsbury Road) Tel: 020-7602 1238 Sunday Lunch is best but book first. prices from 13 - 22 pounds- Continental Cuisine
**Cafe Marzano High Street Kensington next to the Children's Book Shop

Moe Lifestyles and Comment


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