“It’s funny how everyone has an opinion about what you should do with your flat but you,” observed Brian last week. It’s a fair observation. Most people think I should move out, which is a fair assessment when you take into account the fact I could rent it for a packet and it keeps costing me money. But then I’d have to live somewhere else. And that’s where it all falls down. I like it there. I like that it’s full of life, and people feel comfortable (unless they’re neat freaks). Throw your wine on the carpet! It’s fine. Write poems. Fall asleep. Just don’t fall over into the gargantuan TV or burn the place down.
Just round the corner is The King’s Road. No longer the hot strip made legendary in the sixties, now it’s another homogeneous High Street peppered with occasional points of interest. Mostly it’s Starbucks and Pret and Joe and his ridiculously expensive juice. Always a few pubs. Some odd restaurants. The crystal shop. Waitrose and Marks and Spencers. And then the rash of the chains that mark up enough to pay the arsehole rent that The Cadogan Estate want. No betting shops thankfully. No Greggs. A McDonald’s in an old club, but outside of that I reckon the cheapest food is a fiver. Most of the interesting quirky places are long gone. As with the Shunt Vaults, when the grey people catch sight of colour they extinguish it if they can. Still, there are a fair few eccentrics prowling around, but they’re all from money. It’s a good place to people-watch, and that’s what I’ve been doing with my Sunday morning.
An old man in a Burgundy Cashmere golfing jumper and a trilby posts a letter. A Chelsea pensioner marches past a loping teenage boy in a hoodie. You see a fair few of those pensioners, in their distinctive uniforms, always greeting people with the time of day. A high status mother walks by animatedly talking with her daughter – both wearing antique fur. Every third car is a cab, usually with the light on – “Pick me! Pick me!”. Every fifth car is something unusual. Of the pedestrians, about a fifth are visibly drunk and it’s still morning on Sunday. A large proportion more are inevitably off to a lunch which will involve a couple of bottles of expensive plonk. Predominantly Caucasian. Predominantly dressed in clothes that cost money once. There’s a broad selection of hats and scarves. Women arrow by in brand new active wear, their white trainers so bright it’s like looking at the sun. Men light cigarettes from matches walking, with the grace of long practice. Beautiful pedigree dogs are pulled by shambling wrecks of hungover humanity wearing whatever was on the bedroom floor this morning. Occasionally a pigeon. One crackhead so far, but nobody selling. No visible law enforcement. Sometimes someone ambles past buried in a small screen, but mostly this bunch aren’t zombies. The glass in front of me is reflective for them. They check themselves out. They can see me, but it’s like I’m not there.
This whole experience would be better if I wasn’t in Starbucks. This was the first UK Starbucks. They started with a good one. I’m contributing to the problem being here though. I had a chai latte because I hate the coffee. I’m sitting here in this fantastic window. Over the road the Curzon Chelsea cinema is boarded up for redevelopment. When it reopens it’ll hopefully have a decent café. I hope there are windows like this one, as I’ll be getting my membership. I love that little cinema. It’s the first place I saw myself on the big screen so it gets all the narcissist points. What with that and The Royal Court Theatre, and the Chelsea Arts Club up the road, there’s plenty nearby if you look for it. Just don’t get pulled into the big chains like I have.
I wonder what will become of streets like this if internet shopping completely wipes out the high street? Will the rent go back down, bringing the colour back? Or will this be nothing but coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and Amazon depots?