Dahn't Go Sarf Of The River, Mate

"Greetings Now From Actually-Quite Pleasantville, Northwest Three," or so Ginger Wildheart didn't quite sing. In those days of course, the heady rock'n'roll era of the early-to-mid '90's, there probably were 'roachs climbing up the walls, paint hanging off the walls and all. It's now a slightly surreal-sounding 12 years since Earth Vs. The Wildhearts, and things have changed. North London's where it's at, it's hip and down, and all the other things kids like to be these days. Of course, I live here, I'm biased.

Last week's Time Out was a North vs. South issue, and rather oddly, South London came out pretty well. Many people have been to South London: a fair proportion of these have only been the once. If you can pick your way through the corridors of looming high-rise blocks (without, of course, resorting to the tube, which just isn't there) and past the monuments to brutalism in Elephant & Castle, along the renowned Old Kent Road (renowned for Monopoly-dom, I might add, little else), then you might find your way to a couple of the cultural exhibits South London likes to claim as it's own, on the South Bank. It's slightly tenuous to call the NFT or Tate Modern South London, being smack on the river; I don't feel the need to claim St Pauls or Trafalgar Square for North London, do I? Is that all you've got?
Alright, so I'm sure Clapham and Blackheath Village have their moments, and Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Greenwich Park might be all well and good, but would you want to live South of the river? No, course you wouldn't, you want to stay where both tubes and taxis operate.

So maybe let's hop over to East London? Maybe let's not. You've heard of Wanstead maybe, you've heard of Bow, or Leyton. But have you actually been there? No. And do you want to? No, you don't. Why? Because there's literally no reason to go there other than cultural tourism to see a wasteland even more oppressive than South London. There's a certain degree of credence attached to East London at the moment, and to be fair, while grotty, Brick Lane and Shoreditch are not without their charms. But would you want to live there? No, you'd want to live somewhere out of the shadow of Banksie'd railway arches and nowhere near Hackney at all.

So, as it's been put, how about "London's trendy West London". What do you think of when you consider West London? Still racking your brains? That's because there's nothing there. Ealing Common maybe. Woo. How about creating your own icon status underneath the Westway? I don't recommend it. Remember when the Who sang about the 'teenage wasteland'? Try visiting Willesden Junction and Harlesden on a winter evening. Vast tracts of land lie strangled under a web of rails, and even the shopping roads are somewhat removed from civilization, bleak and depressing bastions of fear and loathing that they are. Would you want to live there? Fat chance, you'd want to live somewhere where the sun shines, the bus stops are intact and the Australians stay away from you.

Which leaves us with North London. The Man Who Fell Asleep has the right idea, he lives somewhere near one of our landmarks, the beautiful and impressive Alexandra Palace. Of course, from there you could sweep down to the classy villages of Muswell Hill with it's bustling yet select broadway; Crouch End, with it's array of indie shops and cafes, home to both Peep Show and Shaun Of The Dead; Highgate, the upmarket end of Harringey. Or you could come down the other way and flirt with London at it's most cosmopolitan - go Greek in Palmers Green, sample the finest kebabs this side of the Black Sea on Turnpike Lane, steer clear of gun battles on Green Lanes, step gingerly round Britain's most radical mosque in Finsbury Park before reaching the burgeoning community of Stroud Green Road. Sample the high life in Hampstead, or the low life in Tottenham, Europe's most ethnically diverse community with about 190 different languages spoken.
You've got every kind of life imaginable around here: from gentrified Victorian terraces in Tufnell Park or Barnsbury, to market life in Camden or street crepes in Hampstead. While some areas would be preferable to live in than others, each one beats the rest of London, and although Londoners tend to take a united stance against the rest of the country, you can rely on North Londoners not to be snobbish, but to realise that their own little part of the capital just is better than the rest of it.

This was mostly inspired by the Time Out issue, and in some ways is kind of rude, considering I'm a displaced country lad myself. And yet, I know I'm right with the certainty that only comes from knowing the tube can get you home without resorting to buses; that comes from having culture we can claim rightfully as our own not just isolated but spread unavoidably throughout the whole are; from a sense of superiority that says even our architecture is better than yours.

Give up, Johnny Southerners! Your time is over.

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