My first time in Shepherd's Bush was when I was about eleven years old. My family and I lived a long way outside of London at that time but my parents are Saaaf Lan-daners "froo and froo" so we often made trips to the big smoke to see family and for my mother to increase emotional pressure on my father to move back "daan saaf" (she was successful by the time I turned 14). On one of these trips we spent a day visiting my mother's good friend who lives in Lena Gardens.
I distinctly remember that trip for a number of reasons. My Mum's friend is a successful businesswoman, single, without children and even then as she served seafood paella that my brothers and I were scathing of and selective with, it was obvious to me that she was both horrified and intimidated with my mother's growing mob. What I also recall is, that we all talked about her living in Notting Hill. I remember it because of hearing about the Carnival and I was very excited by this. Now I know that this is not Notting Hill, nor is it really Carnival cruising close. In fact I think you'd be hard pushed to even call it Hammersmith. It's Brook Green, I suppose. But it could also be proudly called Shepherd's Bush. Now with 4 years residential authority on the subject, I've discussed this with my parents since who now have less contact with Hyacinth (not her real name, just one I pulled out the Bucket) and we all laugh that she (and admittedly us) called it Notting Hill.
It's even more laughable because as us junior mob members grew restless and impatient in her stunning, all-white minimalist town house (that's probably quadrupled in value since) with no toys to play with or even things to break, Hyacinth suggested we all took a walk to the nearby playground. So we headed off to a nearby park - not to au-pair and hybrid push chair full Brook Green, but to the comparatively scarce and exposed children's area on Shepherd's Bush Green.
I remember walking down the road (Shepherd's Bush Road - which I now live off) and seeing all the colours and sensing all the activity and as I tried to shake off my Mum's hand as it anxiously grasped mine, I remember thinking "This is London.". Unlike my Grandma's suburban 1930s semi detached, or the Croydon flyover that ashamedly still excites me today, when I met the noise, the chaos and the smell of Shepherd's Bush, it was the first time I really met and fell in love with London. I'd love to say that from that moment on it was my sole and soul's desire to live in Shepherd's Bush. It wasn't - instead at that time I was convinced Joey McIntyre from New Kids on The Block and I would live in a cliff top mansion in LA.
Yet life doesn't turn out how you always imagine it will and sadly Joey and I are not an item (it ended badly) and I am not sunning myself in the Hollywood Hills, here I am in Shepherd's Bush. As I pushed swings at my brother, it never crossed my mind that I would one day be living there. I think on that day I was much more concerned with the unconventional but dominant feature in the playground:
What is it? I couldn't really explain it on my first visit to Shepherd's Bush and I certainly can't explain it now. I think this in itself was an omen to what living in Shepherd's Bush would be like. You see, sometimes in Shepherd's Bush, as in life, you have to be happy with not knowing precisely what's going or or what something is. Furthermore perhaps this is where Hyacinth misses the point about Shepherd's Bush so she pretends she lived somewhere else, somewhere "better". And that's why I'll not get too hung up about not knowing what this odd playground feature is. I would much rather not know what something is than pretend it is something it is not, especially, Dear Hyacinth, if it's where I live.