I have a sentimental relationship with Northolt Road, South Harrow. I’m accustomed to walking the long stretch starting from Hillview Children’s Centre and down towards Carphone Warehouse because I almost always have an issue with my mobile. My phone breaking down is more of a habit now than a clumsy problem of mine. On this particular day I was pushing my daughter in her stroller feeling pleased with myself. I had got her out of the house successfully, she was calm, and the weather was good. I was pushing her towards that end goal of mine when suddenly, at the now closed HSBC, a woman with short cropped pink hair, a fabulously sparkly outfit matched with bed socks started waving to me madly: ‘Cristina, I’m so happy to see my baby Star…’and the rest of what she said I had no idea about because quite frankly it wasn’t coherent. Being in the new mother state, I was convinced she was going to snatch my baby, and as she carried on ‘talking to me’ I took a sharp left into Fashion Mark and hid behind the Whitmore uniform rack until the shop owner gallantly distracted her. I scurried (no easy thing to do with a giant stroller) around the racks and out of the shop this time feeling scared and angry, and with these two emotions I joined the chorus of disappointment which sometimes surrounds this road. I was in this moment the loudest voice of all, ‘why are there so many chicken shops? why do they keep dividing shops into tiny little businesses? And my personal favourite – why is the post office disguised as a greengrocer’s? Yes, I was angry and perhaps not just because I believed a lady who wore bed socks as her shoes was going to steal my baby. The truth is I have a sentimental relationship with this road because I miss it. I miss the old record shop where I bought my Boy George LP, and where I would spend hours rummaging through old DVDs. I miss the markets under the railway bridge – the old man who had a medal stall, the bookshop which opened and closed before I had enough time to explore all its book shelves and that cool wiccan shop.
I crossed the road and decided to drown my sorrows in a tea from Costa and as I sat there feeling miserable, a woman passed me by ‘lovely baby’ she said. That cheered me up and I looked around me. There were two friends signing to each other, every so often I’d hear them laugh and then they would go back to their silent conversation. There were groups of friends chatting in the corner and that man who always sits at the window waving at anyone who passes by. I picked my baby up from the giant red stroller and cuddled her on the sofa.
Costa, maybe just another corporate coffeeshop, but here standing proudly on the corner of South Harrow it has its own identity. It is the window through which I can see the road I have fond memories of. It exists as a space for friendship, community and tea.
Image Credit: Google