Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notting Hill

Hugh Grant
is wibbling at the camera and Rhys Ifans, resplendent in laundrette-grey Y's, is no doubt in a nightclub somewhere desperately hoping that people aren't watching so he can finally move on from Spike. Julia Roberts, playing herself, is doing that simul cry/smile thing.

Notting Hill, the movie, is on again. ITV something (3? 4? 87?)

I'm watching Hugh, dumped by Julia, walking up Portobello Road from the Electric Cinema (as was) two blocks north through all the seasons, snow, everything, to the sound of "Ain't No Sunshine". The sequence starts with a pregnant woman and ends with the same woman holding a baby. Clever. Poignant.

Come on, you've seen it plenty! I've seen it bloody millions of times (mild exaggeration) at the cinema then on planes because it was a "safe" film to show on flights. I got to know it almost off by heart. Literally, I can nearly recite the script now.

Thing is, I'm dragging some cool-out of towners around, because I've spent most of my life in Notting Hill. Not as a born-and-bred local council estate market stall holder, or a trustafarian whose £2m flat has no mortgage, or even a fashionista, but someone who just, er, lived here and shopped on Portobello Road of a Sa'aday mayte. . I wasn't just passing through either. We're talking years. Decades. And while it may not be fashionable, I like the movie too.

On Friday we had dinner at Galicia, the Spanish home from home, (and David Cameron's) so fantastic we had lunch again on Saturday; drinks and stuff at the Electric, downstairs, and more upstairs; after some kosher canapes at a Barmitzvah, some roast halal chicken (a whole one) from Chicken Cottage on Ladbroke Grove, some weekly shopping at the market, pizza in Kensington Park Road opposite where 192 used to be (RIP), Red Velvet cupcakes from Hummingbird, coffee and pastries from Kitchen and Pantry plus breakfast at Mike's (the best!).
No wonder I was fucking fat when I lived there.

As The Travel Bookshop's best ever customer (I travel. I buy travel books) I'm tempted to tell the crowds taking snaps of the exterior that the bookshop in the movie was faked in Portobello Road and also that Richard Curtis's Blue Front Door, opposite Nu-Line, which framed Spike in said undies, wasn't just painted black but has actually been replaced entirely, the real one being sold for charity. But I didn't. So many Japanese kids doing that V-sign, who am I to spoil it?

Gary sings outside the Market Bar, Mary sells her Balinese jewellery; gentrification is relentless and while the Oxfam Shop now sells nowt but books (it's the best one, save possibly for Marylebone High Street) and there are tables and chairs on the pavement north of Westway (as opposed to guys selling, er, stuff at the corner of Cambridge Gardens) it's still the real deal.

Richard Curtis's movie is good, neither the date stamped imagery of Four Weddings, nor the American prism of 'Love, Actually', but a likeable love story, set against a real backdrop.

Because that's what that part of Notting Hill actually looks like. Really.


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