16 July, 2010

Claire's Camberwell

London loves its rivalries.  You can be an Arsenal supporter or a Chelsea supporter (or any of the other 9 football teams in London), you can vote Labour or Conservative (or Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru or Pirate Party UK or any one of over 100 parties listed standing in the 2010 UK General Election), you can be a North Londoner or a South Londoner (not to mention an East Londoner or a West Londoner).  The North/South divide created by the River Thames is one of London's oldest rivalries, as the water creates a natural barrier.  Both sides have their pros and cons: North London is better serviced by the London Underground system, while South London often has more affordable property.  For the first three years that I lived in London I was a North Londoner and proud of it.  It seemed that with each passing year I moved further and further north, going from Camden to Highgate to Muswell Hill, sinking my roots deeper and deeper into the north.  But then I left London.  When I came back I looked up an old friend who was thinking of moving and we decided that we would become flatmates.  I was beginning a job in London Bridge and she was starting work that would keep her traveling between Chelsea and Camberwell.  With two out of three of those locations in South London, that was where we decided to base our flat hunt.  In the course of about three days we had found a great flat in Camberwell.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago I like streets with leafy trees combined with some sounds of traffic.  When we first saw our street I knew I already liked it.  With lovely terraces of Victorian and Georgian homes, a handfull of bus stops within 5 minutes walk and being virtually on top of a railway station, my location is both picturesque and practical.  I can travel to South Kensington in about 35 minutes, Marylebone in about 45 minutes and London Bridge in about 8 minutes.  There is an enormous grocery story about 7 minutes walk from my flat which is open 24 hours (excepting Sunday hours, which are shortened for most large chain stores in the UK) where I like to shop at with my flatmate around 10pm on Thursday evenings so that we can go "Weirdo Watching".  The theory behind this is that since this is a kind of weird time to go grocery shopping, the people there must be weirdos.  Clearly my flatmate and I are completely normal, and are just interested in people watching at the same time as picking up a few groceries after we have watched as much QI and Have I Got News For You as we can handle (I used to have a similar hobby when I was a student in Ithaca, though the trips would happen after watching about 4 hours of Law and Order).

Part of what makes Camberwell such an interesting place to live is the input from some of London's universities.  Camberwell College of Art (part of the University of the Arts London) and King's College Hospital (part of the University of London) give a bustling atmosphere to the area during the week, while it remains a quiet, residential area on the weekends where the pubs spill over with football fans.  Camberwell's cuisine comes from all over the world with restaurants serving Indian, Greek, Chinese, Afro-Carribean and loads of other foods.  For parks, there is Camberwell Green, Burgess Park and, my favorite, Ruskin Park.  Ruskin Park is situated on a hill, and from the top of the park you can look north towards the rest of London, seeing Battersea Power Station, the London Eye, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf on a clear day.  For wildlife there is a metal wolf near Denmark Hill train station that quietly stalks the small family of metal sheep across the road.

Though you wouldn't know it from my accent, I now consider myself a South Londoner.  This made me all the more proud to read that in 2005 Time Out London took a tally on various aspects of the North/South London debate and gave more points to South London.  Whoop!
-One of the three dogs (and Elsie)

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