My Neighborhood in North London
Our flat is on a busy road in North London, one of the main thoroughfares connecting two neighborhoods together. Jamaican and Polish barber shops coexist across the road from each other, while betting houses compete with the endless numbers of Turkish kebab shops for the last five pound note in your pocket. The kind of shops that sell you any kind of junk you can imagine hustle for your business. A dance club across the street periodically pounds with music some nights until dawn. An abandoned National Health Service clinic takes up two storefronts, lending a slightly forlorn ambiance to the street. The Turkish and Polish convenience stores attempt to poach each other’s customers advertising items on offer with handwritten signs on fluorescent tag boards. In the summer, large bins of watermelon sit out front, driving down the prices between the shops. The Turkish men’s social club that’s below our flat displays a sign that says ‘Members Only.’ What was a furniture store when we moved in, is now one of the three Turkish men’s social clubs on our street. Next door to the social club is a Jamaican barber shop, the boisterous community hang out for whole families.
This main thoroughfare becomes a Caribbean neighborhood farther down the road. Shops sell plantains and vegetables I don’t recognize. Women wearing beautifully colored and patterned dresses and headscarves brighten the pervasive gray color that is this country. Large delivery trucks park on the side of the crowded street, red double-decker buses honk impatiently waiting to pass. Men wearing white butchers outfits sling carcasses over their shoulders and carry them from the neat rows hanging on hooks in the truck to the shop, their aprons stained with old brown blood. The smell of rancid meat walking past all the butcher shops nauseates me, and the high-pitched scream of the butcher’s saw going through bone makes me cringe. Shops that sell hair wigs, chicken and chips, and Caribbean bakeries distract me as I hold my breath. Pubs you just wouldn’t go into with broken windows held together with tape and shabby interiors have drunk men standing in their doorways clutching a pint and looking ready for a fight.
The neighborhood is made up of so many co-existing cultures. It is becoming more interspersed with people, like myself, who are outsiders in this enclave of people who were once outsiders themselves in this English town. This has become my home.