Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Richmond Way – Border Town

Welcome to frontier country folks! I heard tell of gold in these mountains!

This is our house, in the middle of our street. A strip of stained tarmac lancing south from Shepherd’s Bush Green in sort-of-wild west London. With a heavy dosage of irony the hopeful residents of this confused village have renamed it Chez Boo. Mais oui! C’est bon, silver plate! The culture clashes have only just begun.

The large green building in the centre of the image is The Duke of Wellington public house, a fairly sketchy establishment, rising like a cavalry fort manned by plaster stained builders, staggering drunks and Pit Bulls, defending the area from gentrification. To the left sits Kensington and Chelsea, Holland Park nannies, bankers and Bentleys. To the right, the chicken shops, Polish deli’s and mosques of the Goldhawk road. To the guests of the Kensington Hilton just over the bridge who have turned the wrong way looking for Notting Hill Gate and Hyde Park, this pub is your first sight of The West. Tread carefully now.

The street is a battleground. Television studios, a five star hotel and spa sit alongside council flats and butchered town houses bursting with studio flats and languages. The tenants spill out onto the street, drinking and arguing, gossiping and chatting, mostly speaking the broken English of Commerce and Getting By.

Richmond Way is always changing and busy, a throughway turned dead end, cut off by the road bridge leading east to the West End and west out to Acton and further to Heathrow. Every week you see new backpackers arrive, mainly Australian or South African. The border town feel is increased by the temporary nature of their lifestyles. Swapping Ikea furniture and old big backed TV’s, they sub let and share with the freedom of The Big City Adventure. We once had a group come straight into our flat with a key. “Erin said it was ok!” said the lead girl with a big, excited grin, as if our time was done and it was their turn to live in the flat.

We kicked them out and changed the lock. I like my frontier flat. It changes every day.