Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Areas: Shepherds Bush (text)

Images here

My Areas series slowly growing here

(not our actual flat shown)

After another period getting my tummy rubbed by Mummy back in the home counties, in the penultimate year before they joined the south coast blue rinsers, Steve, Andy and I after struggling to find a place in Brixton got sorted in Askew Road, W12. Used once or twice in Jonny Vaughan’s truly ’Orrible comedy, Askew Road is a self-contained area of its own, and indeed some haughty Bushrangers would have it that it’s more Acton than Bush because of its location on the western extreme of W12.

But I never went west of Askew Road the whole time and, as on the comeback tour, ‘my’ Shepherd’s Bush joined dots between the area’s many stations, west up Goldhawk Road from the tube as far as Ravenscourt Park (nice green and another, District Line, tube option), north up Askew Road, as far as our flat, east down Askew Gardens and Uxbridge Road to the two Bush tubes separated by the polluted green. In between Uxbridge and Goldhawk roads there’s a whole island of reheeled Victorian streets mostly free of frightful commerce and often populated by BBC managers and aspiring executives (though that will change with the sale of Television Centre). I also often used Olympia station as a (freebie) route to Clapham Junction and Surrey.

In and out the area a lot, I was highly mobile and often high on skunkweed, in my first few months of a first meaningful relationship but with an increased disposable income having moved to a job at a fast-growing financial publisher (cue the slow-breeding resentment at the pitiful double standards of representing a world I loathed). Despite the Askew extremity, what I liked about the area was the speed and ease with which I could get out and back in; whether it was via the central line and walk/bus, the 94 or caning it down Holland Park on a bike (not always mine) I felt easily connected to central London.

It was also a good base for trips further afield – to Manchester or awaydays to places like Barnsley or Swindon, mostly still attempted by bunking the trains, to the home counties for the mindless crack with the lads there. At the start of our Bush tenure, January 1999, City were wallowing in the mid-table of the old third division but by the end, April 2000, we’d had via a miraculous play-off victory at Wembley, gone up a division and were looking good to go up again. We’d swapped Bury, Lincoln and York for QPR, Bolton and Ipswich and soon would be ready for United, Leeds and Liverpool again. And if I wasn’t at the match it was no problem as this was the only time I’ve shared in a Sky subscription.

Inevitably this would be another area whose facilities were not used enough: Uxbridge Road’s Arabic restos (but not the Maghrebi one on Askew); the many pubs; Ravenscourt Park. Chief cultural highlight would have been a deranged adaptation of Welsh’s Filth at the Bush theatre. What time was spent there was spent in the hermetic environment of the converted lounge in the top floor of the flat, working the combination of comedy, music and skunk, plus console games for the other two. The flat itself – I think Croatians owned it, we only saw them once – was the two top floors at the right end of a small, seen-better-days Victorian terrace; bathroom eked out of the middle floor; the top floor a kitchen-lounge hybrid with my room next door, the ensemble perhaps able to look bigger with its gaudy 80s mirrored walls. Steve’s decks took over one of the main work surfaces, meaning mine did not need putting together or even keeping, eventually being sold for more beer and weed money.

I started joining Steve at his ‘deep’ house dos, mostly at the Space midweek residency run by Luke Solomon and Kenny Hawkes (RIP), meeting the likes of DJs Matt Styles, Jonny Rock, Rob Mello and Classic label manager Leon Oakey on the way. I kept my hand in with the d&b scene and had a bit a rapport with Nicky Blackmarket in the basement of the shop as he spotted my enamel City badge once so started talking QPR. Music biz nights with Amanda abounded. And another outlet in Sarah, an ungirlfriend (back in Battersea I had unwisely allowed the issue of whether I wanted a relationship to run and run); there was also regular visits from Ian’s Academy of Contemporary Music crowd, as well as gigs from bands like the Essenes who met at that Guildford college. Tie all that with the MCFC and booze cruising and you had a hectic and costly social life. And many a Monday off, as that new job gave me much more chief-subbing responsibility I did not initially get my head round (and, er, more mates up a beer).

Nevertheless, as the millennial NYE (remember the IT grunts exploiting the Y2K bug fear?) approached, aged 26, it had felt like I’d made a fairly significant turn by opting not to go with the boozers (who were probably off to the Swan or other godforsaken meatmarket where I’d still never pull anyway) and go clubbing instead (Steve and I had hired out a basement in Old Street for our birthdays and it was such a success they wanted us to do NYE; I didn’t fancy it but Matt, Jonny and Rob did).

Yet this excess of still faintly desperate and vacuous socialising tied into a permanent fugue state only fuelled a generalised anomie, and in turn a restless desire to start creating product for myself. Geopolitics was creating an Islamic fundamentalist monster, the consumer consumption we’d all tied ourselves into to varying degrees needed discussion, growing knowledge of the wiles of the music biz needed reflecting too. A group of us had an idea of writing comic sketches but this was quietly shelved as likely to be insubstantial and stoner in-joke sub-Morris fayre; nevertheless any creations were likely to be comic in tone (a refuge and reflection of the growing powerlessness of protest, perhaps).

The downtime of monthly production schedules gave me space to write at work (as it didn’t tend to happen at home), email offered a further space to sound off yet riff on characters and ideas and the developing internet provided coverage of news and current affairs in a way I found more easily digestible, as well as the platforms to go Do It Yourself. It would be a move east and a while yet before I’d made enough non-school/college connections, assimilated ideas and developed a framework for presentation but the first moves were being made here.

By the turn of the millennium Steve and I wanted to move out because the place was grotty and we didn’t much welcome Andy’s approach round the house making it grottier. Fittingly, when we stoners announced our intention we didn’t splurge the real reason but masked it by saying we wanted to change area (he was a BBC man at the time so wouldn’t want to move east with us). We’d got more of the life we’d wanted now but wanted a bit more space and a bit more comfort for our several hundred pounds a month. From a Victorian terrace we headed for Docklands regen in the yuppie dwellings of Limehouse.
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