New Island Values: No Fries

Chips, Glorious Chips!Over the course of last year, whilst living in Notting Hill, I noticed a sharp increase in my chip intake. This was mainly the result of my lifestyle. Most evenings I wouldn’t make it back to the house until 9, and by then had no desire to cook. The chippie at the end of the street always seemed like a good option.

Of course having such fatty and oily food on such a regular basis is not good for anyone – especially if such a place begins to offer you a loyalty card for your efforts in keeping their business afloat.

Saying ‘No Fries’ was rather optimistic. It was never going to really happen – and it hasn’t. But at the same time, when I do cook, I’ve become much more inventive and healthy. I now lay claim to a rather mean Mediterranean Roast Vegetable Concoction, don’t you know. Plus I’ve been getting some great recipe tips from my friend’s blog, The Daily Miff.

Success in my book!

>> New Island Values

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Where is Notting Hill?

Which way to Notting Hill?A common question I get asked (by myself), is where is Notting Hill? Before you shrug off that question by pointing to where it reads Notting Hill on the map, I would respectively ask you to delay that instinctual response. The history of the locality ‘Notting Hill’ is – fortunately for this post – long and slutty.*

So to aid our light-hearted and totally inaccurate adventure in defining where Noting Hill is, below I’ve provided some reference points. I’ve also added a rather lovely map to guide you at the bottom. Enjoy and share, fact fans!

Notting Hill
Where else could we start, but with Richard Curtis’ rom-com-nom? This 1999 admittedly dreadful film stars what’s-her-face from airbrushed billboards and what’s-his-name from Sliding Doors (he wasn’t in that? Then who stole his credit as “bumbling English gent”!).

Unfortunately, so successful were the marketing and desirability of its cast at the time, this whimsical car crash of a film has managed to shape almost every perception of Notting Hill for anyone who doesn’t live there. So despite my doubts, it shall be taken as the first and foremost geographical reference. For, if Richard Curtis is capable of making a film as dull as dishwater as Notting Hill, you would suspect he is perfectly suited to the similarly grey world of town planning.

IUTLINH at Portobello MarketThe film is set around Portobello Market, with Hugh’s ‘quirky’ blue door situated on Westbourne Park Road. Refer to the embedded map.

Carnival
The world’s second largest carnival wouldn’t be accused of misleading the public – think of the potential controversy! Therefore, I’ve added it as the second reference point to forming our analysis.

Also the 2012 route passed where I lived, so this further legitimises my claim of actually living in Notting Hill at one point.

The Notting Hill Set
What’s-his-face from airbrushed billboards, can count his leadership of the Conservatives as a direct result of the ‘Notting Hill Set’. So-called because they lived in Notting Hill – this must be a surefire way of defining where the bloody hell this town is! For, to the best of my knowledge, the media has never misrepresented facts before.

Trellick TowerTrellick Tower and the Grand Union Canal
Trellick Tower is within Notting Hill because I said it was in a previous post. This is tyranny. Deal with it.

Grand Union Canal
The canal is a rather nice thing that threads through West Central London on its way up to Birmingham. Nice things belong in Notting Hill. Therefore, the Grand Union Canal can be the proud owner of an ‘I Used To Live In Notting Hill’ Plaque. Congratulations.

Notting Hill Gate
Just to be controversial, I will say that Notting Hill Gate is the product of leeches attempting to trade on the Notting Hill “brand”. Originally, it wouldn’t be seen as part of the area, but seeing as it now possesses the name, and also the rather marvellous Gate cinema, I’ll allow it.

Postcodes
I won’t be mentioning postcodes here, as according to this source, I never even lived in Notting Hill; a fact I will attack as untrue and slanderous to my grave. Plus, postcodes just aren’t sexy – as this post undoubtedly exemplifies.

Conclusion

So your answer? Notting Hill is the buffer zone between Central and West London: keeping the peace between the wild west and crazy central. So now you know. The forever fascinating intricacies of town planning. Fin.

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* When I say ‘slutty’, I refer to the practice of using ‘Notting Hill’ in one too many instances. This is rather than me insinuating that the area is synonymous with certain ladies of the night. For that, find a blog about King’s Cross or Newcastle**.                                                                                                                                              ** I apologise to the fine home of Geordie Shore. I retract what I said wholly and humorously.

In Praise of Trellick Tower

Photo of Trellick Tower. Taken in March 2013.

“You propel yourself into the arms of god, and christ and all the angels”, remarks folky singer Emmy the Great on “Trellick Tower”. To be honest, it’s not exactly the first lyric that comes to mind when Notting Hill’s famous social housing block is under the spotlight. The colossal monument to Brutalist architecture reigns over the skies of the West London dwelling like an imperial giant.

Trellick Tower is a remarkable building. A decadent of another era – one where it was acceptable to build housing without a consideration of its own functionality. Trellick’s residents live in what can only be described as an urban maze. For one, the defining service tower is no-doubt architecturally interesting, but rather purposeless. Moreover, my last visit saw me trapped at the top of a staircase outside and forced to make a humiliating U-turn back down the stairs. Although this occurrence could easily be construed as part of my own ignorance.

Ernő Goldfinger’s structure would surely be rejected if in the planning stages today – especially from a council perspective. The maintenance, upkeep and security cost more than a fistful of dollars, especially after the 1980s saw it turn into a notorious crime hotspot with multiple rapes and assaults. Meanwhile, from an aesthetic viewpoint, witnessing 100 meters of concrete shoot up from the ground is enough to make anyone nauseous these days. So why praise it?

Well, its ugliness translates into beauty. The Love London Council Housing blog gives a good explanation of the ‘retro cool’ phenomenon. My own personal feelings towards Trellick Tower hark back to my interests and youth. By taking a degree in Modern Eastern European History and Culture, social housing comes as part of the deal, and attachment forms around this. Indeed, on a recent trip to East Berlin, I was one of few in my group who openly admired the formality of such buildings – albeit it from an outsiders’ distance. Saying that, for much of my own existence, I grew up in high-rise council housing. Despite my open disdain for it, I also slightly miss the communality of living in a block with numerous families inside.

At a time when ‘affordable housing’ has quickly become the new slang, and council housing continues its slump into history, Trellick reminds us of the big ideas we had for society in the pre-war period. Such buildings came after a national conversation about what type of country we wanted to live in. The UK chose a welfare society back then – a fact quickly ‘forgotten’ by subsequent Labour and Conservative governments. Ken Loach’s recent documentary The Spirit of ‘45 reminds us of this debate.

But to return to where we began. Emmy the Great’s track “Trellick Tower”, apart from being an all-round joy, understands the brilliance of this beast in the same way as me. Recognising the tower’s soul and purpose, her song harnesses the building as a reference for the theme of lost love, ambition and heartache in a bare and stripped back manner.

It’s attempt to make sense of things which have past can be taken as a socio-political message as much as a romantic one; “Can I spend my life trying to climb you?” The residents of the tower have historically been immigrants, descendants of immigrants, and poor – despite the recent supposed influx of hipsters. The opportunities of scaling to the top of the tower for them is – for the most part – purely literal rather than metaphorical. Yet in this instance, that’s not for the best.

“Trellick Tower” yields from Emmy the Great’s 2011 album Virtue. Also take note of her short film for “God of Loneliness”, featuring an always delightful Isy Suttie and the tower in an integral role. Imagine that lift actually not working!

I can only urge everyone and anyone to visit Trellick Tower if you get the chance. I guarantee it’ll put your life in perspective.