Category Archives: London West


Ealing Common station interior, under Creative Commons from Ewan-Ms photostream. Click pic for link.

Ealing Common station interior, under Creative Commons from Ewan-M’s photostream. Click pic for link.

Ealing is, compared to West Ealing, somewhat glitzy. It’s the glamour girl of the eponymous borough, the headliner, the main act. Its shops are big, its bakers are fancy, its transport connections are good to very good, its houses are beautiful, its common is lovely and circus-friendly.

As such, it puts its aforementioned neighbour in perspective – one end of the street, a dusty, forlorn kind of a nowhere, the other end bombastic, full, and extravagantly better. Or is it? Despite the presence of four charity shops, there’s really little purpose in visiting Ealing. The Broadway is full of chain stores and chain cafes, a shopping centre here, a Costa there, you know the sort. There’s little to give the place any real character or individuality.

And so I don’t rate it that much, even for charity shopping. There’s two Oxfam shops here, a Fara and a Cancer Research: it’s worth a stop off maybe, if you’re in the direction, but even for the vaunted Oxfam book shop, you can do better. Now, about the bookshop. There’s a legend of a Audio and Music Oxfam in the region, and so off we went looking for it, but any questions we asked the denizens of the region seemed to bounce off empty synapses. Having referred to Google Maps upon return, we deduce that the bookshop, featuring no music at all, was the fabled store in question, so that one’s ticked off.

Ah well. It’s not bad, but it’s not so great either.

Find: Ealing on Google Maps
Transport: Ealing Broadway: Piccadilly Line
Consume with: any number of chain coffees
Visit: Gunnersbury Park always looks nice, and comes with the added bonus of having a really good wall.
Overall rating: two hot pants



Filed under 2/5, London West

West Ealing

2007-07-14 Acme Clouds, Dean Gardens. West Ealing, under creative commons from that_james photostream. Click pic for link.

2007-07-14 Acme Clouds, Dean Gardens. West Ealing, under creative commons from that_james’ photostream. Click pic for link.

West Ealing is the slightly-deformed cousin of the pristine Ealing Broadway, with its bright lights and shopping centres. I just wrote at length about the Ballardian nature of the area, its vast tracts of windswept scruff, its total lack of anything resembling the promised regeneration, but WordPress ate my post. I don’t really understand how, but I’m here writing the same thing as I did before, only with the benefit of hindsight enabling me to type all the quicker.

And this sense of mildly disorientating deja vu continues over into my subject, because I’ve visited the tumbleweeded wastelands of Basildon, the brutal decay of Waltham Cross, and I see more of the same here. Neglect, lack of community, lack of vitality, and therefore I can add West Ealing to that list, a nowhere sort of place, just a stretch of High Road with enough utilities to keep it alive.

Nevertheless, as with Waltham Cross, West Ealing taps into the same social stratum and turns up trumps on the charity shop front. The feel of The High Street That Time Forgot is continued in the eighties-themed (read, never renewed) Oxfam shop front that hides a good, old-fashioned Oxfam – little of your fancypants Fair Trade or the dedicated book store as up the road: this is cluttered and messy, and therefore far more enjoyable than the shiny Oxfam shops of more recent times.

It’s right by the dubious grammar of Families Relief, another joyously ramshackle affair, which almost requires clambering over to fully appreciate. There’s also a PDSA, a British Heart Foundation and a Marie Curie, all of which can be relied upon to house good bargains without getting an over-important sense of themselves.

So it’s definitely a place to pound the Broadway for an hour, and pick up some bargains: but you wouldn’t linger.

Find: West Ealing on Google Maps
Transport: West Ealing station, on First Great Western
Consume with: You’re just spitting distance from the inimitable Starvin’ Marvins here.
Visit: The market alleges to be solely dedicated to farm produce. What kind of produce doesn’t start off in a farm.
Overall rating: three balls of wool


Filed under 3/5, London West


Pinner High Street by Diamondgeezer, from Flickr under Creative Commons

In the heart of Metroland, Pinner is perhaps an archetype of suburbia: the kind of suburbia that gives meat to sitcoms (May To December and One Foot In The Grave were both set here), that endless urban sprawl of seeming blandness, identikit family homes, and convenient rail connections to the City.

Yet Pinner is actually far from heartless. Rather, it’s an ancient settlement that, though swallowed up by London in the 30’s, has managed to retain a twee charm, and even the occasional touch of elegance. As such, it’s been home to a disproportionate number of classic British celebrities: Elton John, Ronnie Barker, Bob “007” Holness, Patrick MooreHeath Robinson and Mrs Beeton. No doubt these individuals would have been happy enough in today’s High Street – this little strip of wide road leading up to the church and green (while not home to any charity shops, more’s the pity) is bounded by any number of cute boutiques and restaurants.

The aforementioned urban sprawl is evident in the extension of the original high street’s shopping facilities along Bridge Street, as well as a large Sainsburys next to the all important Metropolitan Line station. Along these lanes then are found the charity shops that make Pinner worth a visit.

I count six here. Three are fairly ordinary. A standard Cancer Research, a small Mencap and RSPCA, are complemented by three excellent siblings, making Pinner well worth a jaunt. Next to the RSPCA, Barnardos have a large shop with a decent bookshop section. I left with Massive Attack‘s Mezzanine (this is why I love shopping secondhand, I’m catching up on all those records and books that I always meant to listen to, or read, but never quite got around to at the time). Turn right from Love Lane up to St. Lukes Hospice, a hangar of a shop with another decent book section. In fact, I didn’t really get past this because by the time I was finished in that alcove, I was already carrying more books (at 99p each, how could I not?) than I could reasonably expect to carry back to the car: two hardback editions by T.E. Lawrence (of “of Arabia” fame) and a set of world-spanning history books.

Then over the road, a magnificently chaotic Oxfam was the pick of the bunch – while Oxfam is never the cheapest option, this one was decent value, and stocked with all sorts of interesting bits and pieces – my companion ummed and aahed over a very nice coat, tat lay happily strewn around, and I emerged somehow carrying more books – Freakonomics, conversations with Vaclav Havel, and a Graham Greene. Success!

I liked the place a great deal and am mulling. How many points? Four out of five, you think? I’ll probably aim higher, on the basis that the caf where we had lunch, staffed by mysteriously vagrant school-age students, was probably not the best thing on offer.

Find: Pinner on Google Maps
Transport: Pinner station, Metropolitan line
Consume with: a hilariously literal rice and peas dish from Paphos Diner
Visit: Pinner Fair
Overall rating: five copies of Cloud Atlas 



Filed under 5/5, London West