Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Postcode rivalry

Friends, family and readers know that the move back to London for me was not motivated by a general desire to live in the world’s greatest city. Rather, it was about moving home. Home to my old manor, with familiar pubs and perhaps almost as importantly, dear friends, living close by.

Some may have seen recent posts about the flat we’re about to rent – you know, the one with the foxes and the kiwi tree – and thought I had got exactly what I wanted. TLOML has a special ‘happy now?’ expression he adopts whenever we chat about how brilliant living in Fox Corner will be.

Far from it. Five streets away from what I wanted, in fact. Our new flat is in NW3, which is technically Hampstead. We will be very close to Keats’ Grove with its gorgeous Queen Anne houses and old gardens. A gentle uphill stroll will take us to old Hampstead Village with its excellent pubs (The Hollybush being a particular favourite), ancient alleyways, and a good branch of The Gap.

Doesn't sound so awful, I know. Okay, I’ll admit it, Hampstead is one of London’s oldest and most charming of villages. I just really really like Kentish Town.

Kentish Town occupies NW5, which starts, as I said, about 5 streets or a 3 minute walk away from Fox Corner. Kentish Town, in stark contrast to Hampstead, has a distinctly scruffy high street. There are very few chain stores. No-one travels there from other postcodes for an afternoon stroll and a nice lunch. And yet…

And yet… it has brilliant independent shops including an excellent bookshop, a nice little stationers, a big organic grocers with a Neal’s Yard counter, and a Lebanese foodhall that sells 3 different kinds of carrot jam. Being close to Camden means that sometimes young rocker types get lost and end up in NW5 (though rumours of its being ‘the next Shoreditch’ have never really been convincing). And there are about a dozen excellent, independent pubs serving really good food. Admittedly there are sometimes crazy people shouting at themselves in the Post Office, which you don't get so much of in Hampstead. And rather more tanning shops than your average North London high street too.

In a way the scruffiness makes it even more appealing: it’s that hidden gem quality, I suppose.

Anyway, as I said, Fox Corner is not in Kentish Town. It is over the border in NW3. This strikes me as a supreme compromise on my part. TLOML is not so convinced. Apparently being 5 streets away from where I wanted to live ought to count as a big win for me.

In many ways we may have found the perfect compromise. We can stroll west one day, and enjoy the beauty and fancy bakeries of Hampstead. The next day we can head east and savour the secret charms and quality beers of Kentish Town.

Truly, home is where the heart is. And even though my heart had a leaning to be five streets further East, I think it’ll be burstingly happy in NW3, with TLOML, the foxes and the kiwis.


  1. You convinced me on the carrot jam.

  2. It's just nice to know it's there if you need it.