From Barons Court to Ladbroke Grove

Posted on May 25, 2016

I had an accusation from one of my friends today that with all the countryside walking I am doing I am in danger of turning into *Jack Hargreaves.

Well, to counteract that argument, let me tell you that last weekend I went to that there London, or the ‘Big Smoke’ as it is sometimes (but admittedly not often these days) referred to.

I am quite lucky really, as I have a good friend who lives in Barons Court and he is always willing to put me up, partly because he likes me and partly because he has no other friends.

So on Saturday me and Jennifer drove up to see Paul and instantly parked up and went for a few beers before going to see him play bass guitar at The Swan in Hammersmith, a pub with an eclectic range of clients that ranged from bordering on normal to stark raving bonkers.

So, after a gentle recovery on Sunday morning, we decided to walk in the spring sunshine from Barons Court to Notting Hill in a bid to clear our heads and take in some of London we, or certainly I have never really seen before.

It is quite remarkable how quickly you can walk in and out of poverty in London and when you walk from Barons Court, through Hammersmith and then West Kensingston you can witness gentrification turning into desperation within a few footsteps.

We entered Holland park via Kensington High Street which was an example of how wonderful London is. We were immediately greeted by birds in full song, squirrels scurrying for scraps and families enjoying the parkland on a lovely morning. London park life is an uplifting experience.

We went through the Japanese Gardens which again, were very impressive and out on to Holland Park Avenue where we stopped at a pub, had a pint of premise brewed beer and continued to meander down towards Portobello Road.


The Japanese gardens in Holland Park

At the top of Portobello Road it is all money and gentrification, very bohemian and similar to the North Lanes in Brighton. All the way down there are little Aladdin’s Caves of just about everything, from old record players, 1950’s footballs, Nazi uniforms, artificial wooden legs, football programmes from another era, jewelry, second hand clothes, you name it was there; you could go in a shop as Mr Benn and come out as a 1920’s Scuba diver.

I loved Portobello Road, right up until I saw a Subway and Tesco Express. For God’s sake, is nothing sacred? Do these places with their plate glass windows have to open their ugly premises in the last few places where ingenuity, independence and creativity still exists?

It temporarily depressed me and was a reminder that if we are not careful, there will come a time where everything in Britain will look and taste the same, whether it is beer, a sandwich or what clothes you wear.

As you get to the guts end of Portobello Road, it becomes a lot more edgy and in a way, a bit more exciting but when we turned left and effectively under the A40 Westway, it was bordering on desperate, with the small park area awash with mental health issues and semi-comatose individuals in the last throes of alcoholism before they meet their maker.

From the homes of multi-millionaires to the very lost and forgotten end of society in the space of a few hundred yards.


Portobello Road

We walked round to Latimer Grove and stopped for another drink in a pub that had various shady characters coming in out of what was effectively an alcoholic’s paradise. It kind of reminded me of one of The Beautiful South tracks that came from their album, Quench, which was all about sliding into the desperation that comes with alcoholism.

No one in there would hurt you, they were too weak and engulfed in their quest for more booze but they were interesting to observe. There was one guy who looked like a gangster who had fallen on hard times and another who had the hair and the tweed jacket of Thespian but the face of a man who had taken two many left turnings in life when he should taken a right.

In the corner, sat a group of West Indian men drinking rum and playing cards. They seemed much happier souls than the other clientele, firing wicked one-liners at each other as they cackled with laughter or bemoaned their bad hand with exaggerated sighs.

These guys would have come to Britain in the sixties, experienced racial hate, been bullied by the metropolitan police and suffered all number of other prejudices. However, here they were, with a glass of rum in one hand a deck of cards in another, laughing and smiling without a care in the world. You have to admire that.

Enjoying a Rum and a game of cards

So we left Ladbroke Grove by tube, passing the ghosts of Saville, Hall and Harris and the now demolished BBC studios as we did so before arriving back in Barons Court and our onward journey back to the tranquility of Hampshire.

I guess I can go back to being Jack Hargreaves now.

*Jack Hargreaves was a presenter on TVS (Television South) in the 1970’s. He presented a show called ‘Out of Town’ where he demonstrated the virtues of country life and the ability to catch a 2lb roach with a bamboo stick, a piece of string and bent needle. He was thought to be behind the Paul Whitehouse character, Bob Fleming.

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