If you’re familiar with the idiosyncrasies of English society, you’ll undoubtedly have encountered the odd phenomenon that, every time a major football tournament pops up, grips the entire nation. Chanting “Football’s coming home”, the entire England – from Hadrian’s Wall to Bognor Regis – will decide that this year is the yearand that their national team will bring home whichever trophy is up for grabs. Except that it never is.
The last few weeks have been pretty similar, from a travelling point of view, to the misfortunes of English football: work or private gallivants had been planned, sometimes even paid for, only to sublimate from solid reality to ephemeral desire in the space of a phone call. Resigned to stay in London, I resolved to get re-acquainted with a part of the city that I used to visit every day. West Hampstead.
Chances are that, no matter how often you’ve visited the city, you mightn’t have heard of West Hampstead, and of the Heath, the park that crowns it. This, it’s my firm belief, is because Hampstead wants it this way. You won’t find hedge fund managers boasting about the size of their portfolio; this is a place for viscounts with a passion for soaps.
Hampstead sits comfortably in the very top tier of London’s most expensive postcodes, together with other crème de la crème boroughs such as Belgravia or Kensigton but, unlike them, it’s not clogged with Chelsea tractors driven by Russian oligarch or footballers. West Hampstead is subtle, a place where the pedigree of those men and women in wax jackets and wellies is as long and illustrious as the one of the Wartburg dogs they take out for a stomp along the paths I used to jog through.
West Hampstead always inspired me sympathy for the eccentricity of its inhabitant, for its village feeling and for the constant reminder of that bygone era when everything was “Jolly good”; if ever there was a place where the days of Agatha Christie ever came to life, West Hampstead is it. So, let us start a journey through the Heath, from a side gate off Finchley Road to Parliament Hill’s belvedere. And let’s do it in company of some of the best and oddest newspaper titles coming from all corner of the countries collected by the Beeb, proof that eccentricity is still legion in this country. And guess what? One of these titles comes from Ham & High, Hampstead’s newspaper. But I won’t spoil the fun of telling you which one it is.
Dog gets stuck in TV cabinet
Fury after bus fails to appear
Toilet curse strikes again
Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaulted her ex-girlfriend in gay bar after she waved at man dressed as a Snickers bar