By Adam Samuel
As someone who has lived on the patch for a mere five years, I feel a bit of a beginner compared with the wizened souls that regard anyone who is coming up to twenty Fitzrovian years as a new kid on the bloc. The fact that the novelty has not worn off must mean something.
Recently, I was telling a friend how much I loved the neighbourhood. She shot back: “never love something that cannot love you back”. Almost immediately, I ran into advertisers from the local coffee shop who designed my business card, the warmth of whose welcome made my friend slightly regret her earlier comment.
So, what is it? Obviously, this is mixed neighbourhood in every sense. Accommodation, restaurants and businesses fight for limited space. Almost everyone’s plus is someone else’s minus. I was boasting to a neighbour of persuading my local pizza place to stick to its opening hours and he was regretting the absence of late night takeaway.
The local addicts and drunks probably hate us when we threaten them with the police to chase them away. The derelict office in Bourlet Close and the filthy Georgian buildings in Maple Street make you want the local authority to compulsorily purchase – that is unless you are the owner hoping to make a killing from both.
Statuesque in the middle is the Middlesex Hospital site, an affront to just about everyone but fast becoming a defining neighbourhood feature in a way that strangely stunner Fitzroy Square is not. The chapel still seems to be standing marooned on the site, presumably un-prayed in. What is its condition like?
Yet in the conflict is strange resolution. The Synagogue has warm relations with the nearby Polish consulate. Even my pizza place (nudged by Westminster) seems to have improved its condenser.
Fitzrovia’s chequered past, of murder, postal robbery, ANC offices, the Richardson gang, brothels for all tastes (for which that chapel provides an amusing counterpoint) were all mentioned on the excellent recent walking tour of the neighbourhood. The older residents have lived through so much more than us beginners. Having Charlie Richardson stealing your political membership for the apartheid South African secret service is so much worse than a little noise pollution.