Frontierland: Camden and Islington


I stayed last night in Prodigal Son’s student house somewhere in Camden or Islington. There is some disagreement in which local authority area it finds itself in. One of those frontier streets where if you are unlucky, neither authority picks up on street cleaning.

It was cold. Very cold. It still is very cold, but I think that’s more the prevailing arctic conditions in the UK rather than a feature of the student accommodation.

Knowing I would be up and about hours before any of the occupants of the house, and needing to escape the freezing domestic environment, I sought advice late last night on where to go for my morning espresso. Prodigal Son looked at me blankly. Coffee? Well, there was nowhere, really.

I was amazed and frankly disbelieving. This is North London, I said. There are coffee shops everywhere, I said. I just want to find a halfway decent one.

He muttered something about his funds not extending sufficiently to be able to spend time in coffee shops (though paradoxically it appears they are sufficient for clubbing) and there really wasn’t anywhere, so I said I would follow my nose.

And so I did. I guessed (correctly) he had never actually explored beyond the boundary of the Camden Road and so headed immediately over there early this morning. And I was delighted to find a whole section of York Way stuffed with real shops: ironmongery, green grocers, cobblers, enticing natural food shops and best of all a glorious authentic Italian deli serving real Italian coffee.

Vindicated, triumphant and secure in my own experience of what to expect in any North London suburb, I was able to sit happily for an hour in Salvino’s sipping espressos, dealing with my emails, and writing my morning pages.

And I got to solve the Camden/Islington question by eavesdropping on a conversation between locals. Some bits of the road are one, some the other, and one authority contracts out services to the other for simplicity’s sake. Er, yes, that does sound simpler. And where do the traffic wardens come from? queried one resident.

Hell, said the local wit.

We all laughed out loud.

All’s right with my world.


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