‘Once you go to Syria, you ain’t coming back’ – ISIS and North Kensington

Photo credit: DANIEL SORABJI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo credit: DANIEL SORABJI/AFP/Getty Images

North Kensington is an area of high economic deprivation with stark contrasts in wealth between the haves and have-nots and creeping gentrification. Neighbouring the conspicuously affluent Notting Hill and Holland Park areas, North Kensington is a livelier, multi-cultural area with large Caribbean, Moroccan and white British communities, among many others. It is the bright glow of North Kensington that reflects so well on its neighbouring districts and attracts the tourists. But the growth of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East is having a profoundly troubling effect on the area as geopolitics collides with family life and a simple explanation for the phenomenon isn’t easy to come by.

In recent times North Kensington has gained media attention with a number of high profile examples of recruitment to ISIS. Internet searches for details of these North Kensington individuals provide plenty of macabre coverage and voyeuristic media fascination. A former classmate of two young fighters wrote a piece expressing his shock at seeing his former friends on television and stated his hope that “If someone turned these average teenagers into killers, something can turn them back”.

Identifying what turned these local children in to men travelling to Syria and Iraq in the name of “jihad” is no simple task, and I spoke to a number of people in the affected North Kensington community to find out their views and to try to grasp the extent of how what happens in the Middle East affects the communities left behind. All the names have been changed.

‘Muhammad Ali’, a 50 year-old Somali community leader in North Kensington told me that the ISIS phenomenon is a “cause for concern” in his family and he now keeps a close check on his son’s movements and timetable. He says that he believes ISIS attracts those that are “not succeeding” in the UK, but that there are exceptions to this rule.

Muhammad told me about a local Eritrean who he knew throughout the boy’s primary and secondary schooling who ended up going to fight in Syria. He says the boy used to attend Muhammad’s Saturday school for local youth and he saw the boy struggle after his father died of cancer. On seeing that this young man had joined ISIS, Muhammad says that it was “a shock…the mum was in shock, a lot of distress”.

Like all of the people I interviewed, Muhammad pointed out that the ISIS view of Islam is completely un-Islamic: “You can’t kill a civilian, how many times does this need to be in the Qur’an before they understand it? There’s no verse that allows you to kill Shia or kill non-Muslims”.

Muhammad identifies UK foreign policy as a pertinent issue, seeing the spread of ISIS’s reach to the UK as a spillover from the Iraqi Sunni-Shia civil war that was caused by the US-led invasion and destruction of Iraq. This has nurtured a sense of victimization of Sunnis, he says, who often feel like they are viewed as second-class citizens in the UK. “Being told you’re a second class citizen, even if you have a degree in medicine (as his son has) is also a factor. I know we already have to work harder than the English, but ISIS affects the poorly educated, the unemployed, those with criminal records, those affected by the police’s stop and search tactics”.

‘Nour’, a middle aged Moroccan community activist who has lived in North Kensington for 17 years, describes the impact on local communities as “devastating. Parents are suffering in silence.” He tells me that local parents have been unable to get their sons’ bodies sent back from the Middle East, saying that he knows the families of Moroccans, Somalis, Syrians and Iraqis aged between 19 and 26 who have travelled to join ISIS.

Nour connects the appeal of ISIS to the materialistic culture of the UK that is especially prevalent in London. By travelling to Syria, these people are offered “money for clothes, for travel, it is a very sophisticated recruitment drive” in which the economic inequality of life in North Kensington “plays a big part.” The average price of a flat in North Kensington is over £600,000, just under one million US Dollars, so the vast majority of young people have no option but to live at home with their families, often in overcrowded accommodation and without realistic prospects for upward social mobility.

Add to this what Nour describes as “an unreal age where these young people don’t differentiate between what’s real and what’s in the digital world” and the fact that the ISIS recruits are “extremely impressionable” and there is the perfect storm for young people to look for a cause to fight for, to “search for an identity as they develop their personalities”.

Nour is critical of sensational media coverage of ISIS, which he suspects may make the group more attractive, but he stated clearly that he thought that to blame UK foreign policy is “an excuse.” He focuses instead on the UK government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy which he says is “failing to talk to Muslim community leaders. They don’t understand the intricacies and don’t seem to have a clue.” He says that the government should instead facilitate the promotion of “real Islam”.

Nour’s approach chimed with the government and media view that these young people are ‘brainwashed’ in to joining ISIS. But 30 year old British Somali ‘Mustapha Bakr’ asked me the rhetorical question: “Some are already radical, so why does the government label them as ‘radicalised’?” He calls this approach “disingenuous”. By blaming a process of ‘radicalisation’ the government don’t have to tackle the fact that there are UK citizens who are already radicalised and ready to go to war. “People would ask them: ‘what are you gonna do about it?’” Mustapha explains, “and the government don’t want to explicitly say that this (ISIS) is Islam, so they use the narrative of preachers of extreme hate”.

In North Kensington, Mustapha says that ISIS recruits, “from the dole (those receiving unemployment benefits) to the well-educated ones, they get trapped in a small world of wanting to do something. With the social cleansing and gentrification of London, they instinctively link this to foreign policy, such as our military aid to Egypt”.

Add to this the “egotistical thing – ‘I need to be the big boy’ – and the fact that these people can’t say what’s on their mind for fear of being labelled ‘radical’ and you have people with fear and resentment of the authorities in London. Then you have white, British guys fighting with the PKK, supporting the Kurds, and they get welcomed home as heroes”.

I asked Mustapha about the cases he has knowledge of in North Kensington. He says that quite a few people have started by seeing the opportunity to do some charity work to help the Syrians, but they then feel a strong urge to act on the injustice they witness. He tells me about a North African resident of North Kensington, who “definitely wasn’t radicalised. He went to Syria. He was a nice guy, he was well educated. You have to speculate about why he went there. Maybe his friends went. Just like that, he was gone. There’s no conveyor belt, and a common denominator isn’t simple to find”.

Not far away, on a housing estate near Latimer Road underground station, British-born Moroccan father-of-three ‘Zico’ tells me that he has seen people from his estate and a friend of his in Morocco go to Syria.

“We used to see this guy on this estate; he was quiet, educated, about 20. He used to say ‘Salaam’ but would never stop to chat. Next thing we knew he’d made a YouTube video and all the reporters came around here. His mum didn’t even know, she thought he was going off to study in Germany.” Why would he join ISIS, I asked Zico. “You have to have some kind of gullibility, to see Syria as ‘my jihad’ or ‘my way to paradise’”.

Zico also identifies anger against UK foreign policy as a cause – “while you’re in other people’s countries slaughtering their people, there’s going to be a backlash” – and says that a “minority” start with a genuine wish to help Syrians in need but a majority probably see no difference between themselves and British soldiers in Iraq, with “an attitude of take no prisoners”.

Of his former friend in Morocco, Zico tells me he was a successful businessman with a large house, who “left everything and went. He died fighting the Kurds three weeks ago. His three brothers and dad went too. He took his wife. Their daughter was born over there and a week later he was killed, it’s deep. Only one brother is left, plus his mum and son.” Zico saw his friend change over time, becoming more introspective. “I thought he was deep in thought about his shop, but it turns out he was thinking about Syria”.

Zico describes the reaction in Morocco as similar to that in North Kensington. “Parents in Morocco are asking the government ‘why are they taking our kids?’” And he identifies poverty as a motivating factor. “Kids in Morocco are on £3 a day, it’s not enough to survive and the internet’s opened up their eyes”.

Zico’s advice to the potential British ISIS recruits: “Do not bite the hand that feeds you…this (the UK) is the best country you can live in. IS? Sharia law? I don’t think they can handle it really. Here, we have the freedom to do all that, we can live as Islamically as we want. You can’t beat freedom”

“And why choose Syria? You can go and live the Sharia life in plenty of countries. Once you go to Syria, you ain’t coming back.” As the balance of power continues to shift in the Middle East, the North Kensington community is experiencing its impact first hand, and the truth of this succinct statement is all too clear. And while the motivations of those joining ISIS may be difficult to fathom, the tragic consequences are not.

By Tom Charles

A version of this article first appeared at al Araby al Jadeed

Ain’t Right

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When I observe my thoughts, I learn a lot.

The other day, I was on the bus and reached for my headphones to plug them in to my phone. One headphone has an R engraved on it and one has an L.

As I lifted the first one, I moved it to the right, untwisted the wire so I could see if it was R or L, hoping it would be R. If it turned out to be the L, I would then have to either turn my head or reach across to put it in my left ear.

To my disappointment it was L. My immediate thoughts, which I’m grateful I observed, were: ‘That’s typical of my life’ and ‘That’s typical of me, always doing things wrong’.

I didn’t recall specific, bigger past disappointments, but in that instant my mind remembered them and a general, crushing dismay came to me. I had failed. What happened? And what was I telling myself?

The late psychologist Marshall Rosenberg said “While we may not consider the way we talk to be ‘violent,’ our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or for ourselves.” The venomous thoughts I directed at myself and the world at this apparently innocuous incident were an act of violence on my part.

Where does such violence originate?

It can be seen as part of the habit of avoiding what is happening in the moment. With a desire for constant distraction comes an intolerance of any inconvenience that forces our attention back to the present. This can lead to the ‘superego’ becoming activated.

The therapist Dr Alice Greene explains that ‘superego’ is “made up of internalised parental voices from our past conditioning. This judgmental internal voice tries to control us – mostly through self-critical thoughts, self-blaming, often vicious bullying and, sometimes, suicidal self-hatred. We can more easily recognise these when we project them onto others – the beginnings of war in all worlds…”

Having just spent five days visiting the original owners of those parental voices, it seems that my superego was close to the surface, braced for a threat – whether that be existential, or just headphones – we haven’t evolved enough to differentiate between the two.

But these aggressive thoughts of self-loathing weren’t alone. I had just felt a pang of love and connection. As I looked out of the bus window, there was my long lost writing partner Angel Lewis and his son ambling up the road. I was back and there were my people to unknowingly welcome me.

Then came the furious thoughts, and five minutes later I realised I was on the 23 not the 52. I was in Paddington not Victoria. But this time there was a conspicuous absence of violent thoughts, just acceptance (which I suppose I should call compassion) and soon I was on the crowded London Underground correcting my mistake.

I’ve spent the two days since pondering my gut reaction to the headphones melodrama and I’m glad for reminder they gave me of where my mind can drag me.

Tom Charles for Urban Dandy

Stand 52

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Urban Dandy would like to bring to your attention the loss of a beloved community member. Stand 52 is not really what you would have in mind when asking for a half a pound a grapes but if you are from the area you would have used stand 52 many times.

Tommy from stand 52 Portobello Market, for some is Portobello Market, having supplied us with fresh fruit and veg for years. I can say from experience that he was one of the faces that you got used to seeing every morning on the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent, arranging that lovely coloured nutrition in delicious order offering to quench your thirst and satisfy your body’s need for vitamins and minerals.

It’s interesting that with all the supermarkets popping up here there and everywhere, the question of local loyalty is underlined. I must admit within my own experience there is some guilt as I have a very specialized diet for health reasons, but that said I do what I can where I can and would only hope that most like myself will be also sad to see the end of a Portobello market legend.

Here is a man that took only two weeks off work each year. This is a very rare form of dedication. As noble as this may be, sadly it took the dreaded cancer to force a year’s break from the market.

In a brief conversation with Maureen, Tommy’s wife, I learned that his dedication and commitment to us as customers went way beyond Portobello Market and into his own domestic environment as when the question of marriage occurred Tommy was reluctant to take time off on a Saturday, so we should all feel privileged standing in the way of their wedding vows.

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Portobello Market is made up of some tremendous locals just like Tommy who really tend to smile through everything they face including the decrease in turnover based on their goliath super-chain competitors, yet they continue.

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Even those who didn’t know you knew your presence, work and commitment. On behalf of the family, extended family and every other market trader we say Rest In Peace Tommy Kane.

Thank you

R.I.P. Tommy

Portobello’s Magic Mushrooms

“There’s something weird about mushrooms, there’s something weird about Portobello…I fit in”

Mushrooms

Just a stone’s throw from Portobello’s Tesco is a stall at the other end of the food spectrum: honest, healthy, community-minded and with a genuine passion for nourishment, flavour and creative cooking, Tom James Dean’s mushroom stall.

Tom, sometimes known as Mushroom Man, welcomes the hordes of Portobello tourists with their cameras (for fb, tw and inst) each week in what is definitely a labour of love. He probably gets a fair number of people like me stopping by too, who know that mushrooms are good for you, and, well, that’s about the extent of our understanding…

Tesco (and the rest, but we’ll pick on them) sell low quality mushrooms, covered in plastic. This maintains the consistent appearance and size of the mushrooms, but not their health benefits or taste. Mushrooms should shrink; Tesco mushrooms might look good (as mushrooms go), “but in reality they’re rotting away” says Tom.

Tom uses breathable plastic and brown paper bags, so the mushrooms don’t go mouldy and don’t dry out. He’s also cheaper than Tesco, offers “more flavour” and “more benefit”. His mushrooms are also of a far wider and wilder variety…

So, what are the benefits of buying from an expert seller like Tom?

Integrity

“First of all I buy from South Korea, which is known to treat their mushroom workers much better. They also grow their mushrooms in sterile conditions, in labs”.

While Tom says he occasionally comes across “mushroom hobbyists” selling at Farmers’ Markets, none of the organic farms in the UK grow their own mushrooms, and instead they get them from buyers, the same buyers as Waitrose and the other chains. This is contributing to the emergence of monopolies of sellers and supermarkets and causing smaller farmers to go bust. Tom James Dean works with experts from “all over the world,” in whom he has gained trust, including Indigo Herbs in Glastonbury, knowing that his partners have a genuine interest in what they eat, and are conscious of environmental issues.

Environmental

Most obviously of all, “mushrooms are an ideal substitute for meat, so we can create a sustainable planet…a lot of sensible vegetarians simply change from meat to mushrooms.” Meat is murder and recent revelations have shown that not even religious slaughter is exempt from the horrors of the industry, no matter how piously packaged.

Oyster mushrooms, with their bland taste may not be a favourite of the veggie community, but check this out: “they clear up landfills and oil spills…a tough mushroom”.

Mushrooms absorb heavy metals, so Tom advises not to pick them in or around London. And, expert advice should always be sought when picking your own shrooms. Even in remoter areas of Wales and Scotland, picking wild mushrooms can be a health hazard, as the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident hit those countries more than it did Romania, and mushrooms absorb radiation.

For all us amateurs out there, it’s best to look at mushrooms the same way we look at berries. “You have blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries that we are familiar with, then there are other berries that look good but would kill you in the most horrible, painful way. Mushrooms are the same.”

Health

Says Tom: “the Asians are the best with Mushroom study, they believe they can create longevity. They have had evidence that proves that certain mushrooms can stop your DNA from unwinding, particularly mushrooms such as Cordyceps, Reishi and Shiitaki. With Cordyceps they have had breakthroughs in cancer research and have successfully reduced cancerous cells. Psilocybin can ease depression and relieve headaches for six months. Chaga mushrooms are used in Russia for stomach disorders”.

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“Another Russian favourite is Chanterelle, it’s a wild mushroom that we also call Foxes mushroom, they eat it raw although I would never eat mushrooms raw. I just cook them with a bit of butter. That one is probably my favourite, and it’s also known for its anti-cancer properties.”

Here’s a brief outline of a few benefits of a few of Tom’s favourite mushrooms:

Shiitake

  • Balances cholesterol
  • Sun drying with the gills up allows the mushroom to absorb six times the level of Vitamin D, which boosts the immune system, mood and much more
  • “If somebody had suffered extreme exposure to radiation I would have them lay in a field of shiitake mushrooms to see if it draws it out. Hey you never know”

Chaga

  • A fungus that grows on the bark of trees, in Russia this mushroom is prescribed for digestive disorders
  • Very expensive and tightly guarded, with one Russian tree having two armed guards of its own
  • Combats cancer

Reishi

  • Good for anxiety
  • Alleviates insomnia

 

Cordyceps

    • Cancer, immune system and fertility benefits
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An alleged fertility-boosting mushroom

 

  • “If I found out I had cancer I would eat loads of Reishi and loads of Cordyceps. I’ve seen some significant improvement in my immune system from eating them every morning. I boil them in water in the morning. They say it boosts fertility. The first time I took Cordyceps my girlfriend was pregnant within a week.”

 

 Psychoactive Mushrooms

  • Aka Magic Mushrooms
  • Legal trade in the UK shut down in 2005, but in 2015 the benefits of psychoactives are being studied again
  • Can open up the floodgates of memories, both good and bad, so can help people to move on
  • Being used in trials for easing post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Can treat severe headaches, including cluster headaches

 

While the trade has been passed down from his father, Tom says his dad was a business man, first and foremost, having started importing mushrooms in 1967. Tom, though, is partly led by sound business practice, and partly by spiritual and ethical concerns, which he inherited from his mother, somebody who fed him on home grown food, “straight from the ground.” How refreshing to see this mix at work, right outside Tesco. Did we mention them already?

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And as he tells UDL about his parents, we can see that he’s an exact cross between both. Like his father, he has no time for quackery, he wants proof. But when he has the proof, he’s not shy about talking about it. Good news and good health are to be shared.

In the middle of the Little Babylon that is Portobello Road, Tom’s stall is well worth a visit. It has a mysterious feel; Eastern, Western and from the places where we daren’t explore, these strange looking foods, grisly and grimy, contain a wealth of life-enhancing benefits.

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They’re weird. He says he’s weird. I don’t believe him, he’s really an enthusiast and a fountain of information. Courted by corporations, thinking about writing his first book, and keeping Portobello fresh, Tom James Dean, on the corner of Portobello and Westbourne Park Roads, is ready to share his passion with you, to educate you and to bring some well-being in to your life.

In our times and in our North Kensington, this mushroom expert is an urban sage for our age.

 

By Tom Charles

Could have, should have, didn’t.

Sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that can cause the most damage.

I rarely write on this type of issue but I feel compelled.

It was only a week ago when I thought to myself ‘I wonder what this woman’s story is’? She seemed a little perturbed at times but would often afford me a smile and a wave if a little far, that’s if I didn’t get there first. This had become a ritual that we both kept up every morning around the never ending race called ‘The school run’. She and I never failed to say ‘Good Morning’ to each other. Sometimes I wouldn’t know whether to wait when I saw her stride suspended by her toddler walking at snail pace while putting my key in my front door. She seemed pretty patient waiting with the baby in the cumbersome buggy while she stalled outside my doorstep for the little angel to catch up.

A slightly chubby woman with soft black silky hair always pulled back in a ponytail. There was a seriousness to her that caused me to wonder what had painted that expression into her soft, smooth, brown, face.  I did remember seeing her a few times with a tall slim Jamaican guy who, as friendly as I am, I did try to avoid. My reasoning told me, children’s Daddy but they were pretty banausic and self preserving.

For me survival is a learned behaviour, after living in Brooklyn for the formative part of your adult life you get to know how to ignore people who move a little faster than natural. This slim sporty looking character was that. He knew almost everybody in the neighbourhood within just a few months. I would spot him talking with… let’s just say locals with way too much time on their hands. I waived many opportunities to become an acquaintance through those unwanted six degrees but some underlaying instinct kept me in the same street but on a different, different road. He was always coming when I was going and I was partly the orchestrator of this.

After a few times seeing them together I figured that they were certainly an item.  At this point I believe it would have been safe for me to have said maybe more than ‘good morning,’ speaking from those thoughts a few months back because I feel it may not have warranted any negativity. She could have possibly answered ‘I’m okay just cant be around that man anymore’. To that I would have replied, ‘If it’s that bad stay somewhere else, a sister, your mother anywhere is better than arguing’. Or she could have said ‘Just so tired after watching the new season of CSI’. In which case my words could have been ‘You should try to watch some more inspirational stuff like some Deepak Chopra or something, that stuff stays in your head and when you get in an unfamiliar situation, you never know what’ll pop out”.  I could have said a number of things to which she may or may not have listened but we will never know because none of this ever happened. Why? Lots of reasons: I was in  a rush, It was cold outside, I was a bit scared, she was not that familiar.

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On Friday evening…well no, on Saturday morning I was given a sheet of paper by a young man after he knocked on my door.  The familiarity with his dark outfit let me know it was of a typical probing nature. He was looking for information on whether anybody had been approached about any of the goings ons within the flat at the end of my road. Immediately I thought of them.

By Friday afternoon our good mornings would be exchanged no more for the mother of two, allegedly murdered her husband and the toddler that evening and left a cold mystery for the neighbours to try and unfold, backtracking trying to figure out why. Alcohol, drugs, self defence? No, nothing makes sense. Obviously she had snapped. This cold act created a historical tragedy equal to any other Hollywood drama, that will be told to the neighbours children’s children. One day it will be told to the surviving child by her foster parents. This event will be the reason why the place will be gutted and refurbished and even years later when its departed from everybody’s consciousness, there will be someone questioning whether they truly heard the remnants of the slain souls that left so unexpectedly.Daily Thompson house

I have seen tragedy and death before but for some reason I felt attached to this situation and, for the past few days have used a practice called Zero Limits for removing negative energy and bringing clean and clear energy. Still I ask, rather than a moments silence for the all around loss of a family, this woman who’s life is well and truly over, to look deep within your neighbour’s eyes when you greet them and let it not be all formality and routine. Dare to see through them, see if they are really okay, really. Say something uplifting to them because if one word a wordy person like myself could have said at that opportune moment could have changed this, it would have been worth switching the ego off for.

Please look after your minds and definitely talk with each other.

TREE-ASSURING UNITY

It’s strange how simply witnessing the events of a day can effectively teach you so much about gratitude.

At about 3pm on the 8th of June, the residents of Notting Hill’s Colville Square and the surrounding streets heard a puzzling crash that forced the curious side of their nature to react.

Running out into the street I thought – blood, broken bones, tears and panic but as a believer in the shaping of one’s own reality I stopped for a brief moment and thought, everybody is fine, zero injuries and no grief.  Opening my front door my belief turned into a knowing. I would love to say it was solely my sense of human concern, and it was but only an uneven proportion, because at the rim dunking, top shelf reaching, height of 6 ft 3, I become a morsel of a man at the site of blood. Yes, I believe blood belongs inside the body not out and although I haven’t fainted at the sight of it yet I often weigh the possibility.

Everybody just stood there not quite knowing if the miracle they had just witnessed had truly happened. No blood, no screaming, no urgency to help pull anybody from beneath the fallen tree. No chainsaw on site or visible human act that may have caused this to happen. The considerate tree seemed to first check that nobody was in its path before it made its great departure from the surrounding family of trees that housed the feathered early morning choir of Colville Square.

 

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After calling 999 and asking for the fire brigade, which seemed to be the logical choice of the three, I was told that it was not their business and I should call the council. I got off the phone confused and even more anxious. I guess there was a part of me that wanted to be the one to call for help, as it was my tree.  I mean only two hours ago I was discussing this very tree as being a worthy exchange for sacrificing the beautiful park view that we so loved outside of the old flat. I guess its sudden split made me the only injured person and recognising the tree had other plans (besides me) I took it personally. Since there was nobody else injured my second 999 choice was the police and they said ‘No Problem’ and got there within five minutes, along with the fire brigade.

Almost stranger than the tree falling out of the blue,on a warm summers day, was the fact that the tree had as many choices as to which direction to surrender to gravity as myself or any other earthly object, yet it seemed to be considerate of the sweet 3-year-olds out  playing in the nursery playground just six feet away, the families playing in the park fifteen feet away and even the building across the street. It conveniently fell almost along the street with even the illusion of time being a consideration avoiding my young unsuspecting nephew’s visit by 5 minutes exactly.  Three cars were injured and one

Three cars were injured and one totalled along with a lamppost.  Observing the neighbours gathering and the employment of too many phone cameras two thoughts came to mind; what a beautiful act of mercy on the part of the Tree and its position and timing, I mean if this were a movie like the Exorcist or the Omen there would have been a priest sacrificed beneath it and the other thought was, is this what it takes to get to know your neighbors?  This brought me back to the London riots,  that was the last time I really talked to my neighbours without prompting any unwarranted suspicion. The street was filled with talk of insurance and blame and jokes were allowed to fly around the scene due to the lack of human injury while community support officers and police helped to control the environment with tape. In each person’s mind was a warm relief and a satisfaction as the sense of adventure needed in a normally armchair type voyage spilled out from the telly into the streets, it kind of pacified the needs of the community without the need for blood as props.

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The woman who owned the car that received the major blow stood outside smoking a cigarette thinking about her insurance claim. When I asked her what car she would consider next she replied “A tank”.

The fact that she and I had the last laugh and yet probably the worst blow from this day made our evening and my weekend a very joyful one, maybe because we were all human again and whenever the universe displays a serendipitous knowledge we can do nothing but humbly seek out the message in all this. For me, it was gratitude for life knowing how ugly things could have turned out and how little we have done to interact with the beautiful lives on our street.

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Here’s all that remains of a tree named Unity

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Rest in Peace

Angel Lewis

Urban Dandy London’s Style Secrets Revealed…

It is a well-known fact locally that Urban Dandy London are the most urban and dandy of Londoners, impressing all they meet with their fashion sense; from the country squire to the high street looter, UDL has it all covered and refined to a tee.

It is commonly believed that such stylish swagger could only come naturally, bestowed on UDL through good fortune, positive energy and all-round worthiness.

But that ain’t the whole truth. It also helps that slap bang in the middle of UDL’s three London HQs is the Fara clothing shop, where designer threads male and female, and much more besides are available at recession-friendly prices,

Notting Hill’s very own spot where everybody knows your name gives plenty of space for creativity with its legendary window displays and the staff encouraging customers to graffiti the walls,

The jovial folk of Notting Hill have so far come up with this selection:

Can’t argue

  

We love you too
A tortoise
hear hear

 

Can you do better? (you can) Go and visit, decorate the walls, dandify yourself this summer at Fara

 

10 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, just off Portobello Road