I should get out more. Things had changed and although I had noticed my cleaner was Polish, my builder was from Ukraine, my waitress from Latvia, the street’s parking gaulieters Sub Saharan, my tobacconist was from the sub continent ,Hindi is the first language of Southall and there were regular riots involving dusty folk all over London I hadn’t really got it. After all Putney where I have lived for nearly forty year is largely white and my professional and social life has largely been involved with a very homogeneous group.
My London is largely a mile wide going from Twickenham in the South West through Richmond and East Sheen, Putney, Fulham, Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge, the West End ,South Bank and the City with a couple of arms reaching out to Camden , Belsize Park and Hampstead and another going through Brixton(where my daughter has a flat) onto Dulwich where there is a very good art gallery.
So this week my trips to end of the Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central to see the William Morris Gallery and a cycle ride away to Shepherds Bush market to see a friends new flat were eye openers.
Is there a North ,South, East and West Walthamstow,maybe,I didn’t stay to find out. But Walthamstow Central seems to be ethnically somewhere between Mogadishu and Mumbai with a little bit of Cracow thrown in. I kept my cool and carefully placed my Visa card in my shoe and all good travellers do. Hey there, which bus to the museum. You what.
Although run down and obviously down market with chicken and very other kind of fries, pawnshops and solicitors offering to sort out claims for trips and rent disputes very visible the place was buzzing. There were a few boarded up shops but not many along the long s hopping streets. It may be down market but it was very busy down market. What’s more once one caught one breath there was little tension or fear. But it was the ethnic mix and the non white majority which was the eye opener even to someone who has regularly visited Brixton.
Onto to Shepherds Bush Market. Here we were to enjoy “the best falafel” in town said our Czech-Canadian friends. Sure enough it was good enough to deserve a tip. In that lovely way I have , I did first ask if they took English money. I had previously welcomed a Arab family wearing the full now you see it, now you don’t , a welcome to Britain. We must all do our bit.
This is not a market as in North End Road where there is the odd exotic vegetable or green banana. The occasional specialist immigrant shop or stall, no , this is a market where there is little for a white man who doesn’t cover his hair. But a lot for a Muslim woman who does. Right on.
This is no big deal, I read , I watch TV none of this is news, its just seeing it up front. We have just spent a lot of money buying tickets for a round the world trip. Next year we go to Walthamstow Central and Shepherds Bush. Multi culturalism, get with it, you know it makes sense. Why go through all that airport hassle?