‘West London is where people who have won at life live.’
Whether it’s immigrant Antipodeans and South Africans happily drinking their way to a sham marriage during their colonial gap year, or the yummy mummy living in Richmond who wears her financier husband’s rugby tops, looks delicious in jeans and is shagging the gardener on the side, West life appears as simple, easy and implausible as the boy band named after it.
Nobody who doesn’t already live in the West can afford to move there, which gives the area an unusually settled feel. Such stability has helped to build a community spirit unusual for London, with most residents saying a happy hello whenever the chauffeur, Ocado delivery man or high-class escort girl calls in at one of their residences.
Delve beneath the surface though, and the West’s weakness emerges. More than anywhere else in London this area is boring, and in its heart of hearts, it knows it. Swing by Kensington and Sloane Square, and gaze into the glassy eyes of the terminally unthinking.
Posh hair prevails, brands dominate, and all the restaurants are chains that you would only enter to have the birthday party of a dull friend in. The pubs all have candles and ostentatiously unusual lager, and the public transport is crap because everyone still drives. Above all, everyone in West London is terrified of being found out. But fortunately, few people venture there to do so.
1529 – One famous crossing at Putney was that of Cardinal Wolsey after falling out of favour with Henry VIII. As he was riding up Putney Hill he was overtaken by a royal chamberlain who presented him with a ring as a token of the continuance of his majesty’s favour. When the Cardinal had heard the good words of the king, he kneeled down in the dirt upon both knees, holding up his hands for joy, and said “When I consider the joyful news that you have brought to me, I could do no less than greatly rejoice. Every word pierces so my heart, that the sudden joy surmounted my memory, having no regard or respect to the place; but I thought it my duty, that in the same place where I received this comfort, to laud and praise God upon my knees, and most humbly to render unto my sovereign lord my most hearty thanks for the same,” before wondering whether that all sounded a bit gay.
1800 to present – Basically nothing interesting.
Did You Know?
Shepherd’s Bush is home to the Westfield Shopping Centre, a building which shows exactly what the entire world would look like if it were run by Heat magazine.
Mullah Lite – Shepherd’s Bush was briefly home to Abu Hamza, everybody’s second favourite comedy villain with a hook.
With a penchant for fronting BBC programmes for the JML products demographic, Southall-born Nick Knowles is widely seen as being the poor man’s Nick Knowles.
The presence of old money in the West also means the area has an older population than the city’s average, which displays itself in the quality of driving.
Holland Park is one of the most expensive residential districts in the world, with houses regularly listed for sale at over £10 million. There’s nothing to stop you ringing the estate agent for a viewing though, so be sure to wear your dirtiest shoes.
Incredibly, Fulham was the 18th Century Las Vegas. That reputation lives on in the dictionary, with ‘fulhams’ defined as ‘dice loaded at the corner to ensure that certain numbers are thrown. Although the casinos may have moved on, Fulham’s residents have made sure the dice have been tipped in their favour ever since.
Wormwood Scrubs was the duelling ground of London for many years, with several fights to the death taking place there. Duelling began to fall out of civilised favour in the 18th Century after the invention of comfortable middle age.