Apologies for the lack of recipes but our oven door exploded and I’m still torn between feeling grumpy about not making the things I wanted to this week and seeing it as a stove-top only challenge. However…

I was delighted to be asked to review The Kilburn Passion for West Hampstead Life last night. Kilburn was the first part of London I ever rented in. I won’t say “lived in” as the distant reaches of Zone 4 I grew up in did still have tube stations and was technically London, but that’s where I lived with my family. Kilburn was the first corner of London I chose for myself and made my home in.

I started writing notes on my phone (annoyingly, sorry) as I walked along Kilburn High Road. Perhaps knowing that I was about to watch a highly-regarded performance focusing on the vignettes of life along this stretch of tarmac, (review coming soon), but it’s not the first time Kilburn has moved me to poetry. I once turned up late for a friend’s birthday at the North London Tavern because I had started recording a sort of spontaneous history documentary in to my phone as I walked from Willesden Lane to the pub.

But I’ve moved away. Walking along my favourite high road now feels foreign and strange and unwelcoming – like it knows I betrayed it by moving to the other side of Hampstead Heath. Where I once strutted confidently past hoards of bargain-hunters pouring out of Poundland, knowing where to avoid loose paving stones or bus stop build-up, I now stumble along getting stuck shuffling behind slow-walking shoppers with tartan trollies, feeling disorientated.

When I arrived in 2009, I instantly loved this busy, thriving bustling high street full of late night fruit and veg shops and uniquely-named takeaways of every cuisine imaginable. I even started a project of my own dedicated to my love of its history and buildings. But now – as I make the once regular pilgrimage from the Overground up to the Jubilee line – instead of feeling part of it, I feel like an outsider. I’ve escaped the calm quiet clean boulevards of Muswell Hill to find myself wondering what all the noise is for, why there are so many pubs and what on earth that smell could be.

kilburn high road pizza from Casareccia

Then somehow, by the time I pass the Good Ship, sighing when I catch sight of the window where mine and Juliet’s comedy posters were once pressed against the glass, I notice my hands are mysteriously dirty despite not actually having touched anything. And instead of reaching for a tissue in my handbag, I smile and realise that of course my hands are dirty – because it only takes that short walk before Kilburn High Road becomes part of you again, before it shakes your hand to welcome you back. It is a place where things happen – where they keep happening even when you’re gone. Despite not knowing any of the staff now, my favourite pub is still there, draped in the bunting I hand-stitched for my 30th birthday party. The first place I practiced stand-up comedy has had a bonkers-looking graffiti-style makeover and the live music venues remain empty and boarded up like the day I left.

Instead of stumbling home after too many cocktails with a belly full of Persian food, we sit outside and share a pizza at the consistently lovely Casareccia, who let us use our theatre tickets to get a discount on the bill, and enjoy a night of culture before making the long trek back to the relatively bucolic calm of N10. I’m left unsettled by the idea that Kilburn High Road hasn’t changed. I have.

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