Friday, 3 June 2011

Shepherd's Bush: grey, malodorous and overpopulated

So says the Financial Times correspondent Paul Theroux in a piece last week. Mr Theroux who travels and writes about the places in the world he visists, from Singapore to Streatham, says this of W12:
"Shepherd’s Bush: a grey, malodorous, overpopulated district, the opposite of its name, in west London. The traveller not wise to the truth of this squints and mutters, “Where is it?”, while gazing at the greasy cafés, kebab shops, Australian mega-pubs, cut-price emporiums and honking traffic".
 Now then, the temptation may be to dismiss Mr Theroux as the snob his name suggests he is, but actually does this have the ring of truth? And is it so bad if it does?

For "greasy cafes" perhaps we could identify Adams Cafe on Askew Road, which is a superb and award winning eatery that is cafe by day and Moroccan restaurant by evening.

For "kebab shops" could this be a reference to a hub of the community King Solomans, whos owner Mohammed Hamid, originally from Egypt but a Shepherd's Bush resident since the mid 1970s has been serving up home made middle eastern cuisine since he arrived but is also one of the few places in the rich patchwork of the Bush that is patronised equally by mosque go-ers and QPR fans and everyone in-between.

Cut price emporiums could be a reference to the linen shops of the Shepherd's Bush Market curently engaged in a life or death struggle against our Council and their developer friends Orion who want to knock them down and build seven floors of flats on top instead. Which of course would contribute to Mr Theroux's point about Shepherd's Bush already being "overpopulated" which you can see at a glance.

And honking traffic seems to be the norm throughout the city.

Which of course leaves "Australian mega pubs" which is surely a reference to everyone's bad neighbour the Walkabout Pub which serves us all a regular diet of violence and vomit on the weekends usually in the form of drunken Australians reinforcing a few national stereotypes of their own.

Apart from that, I quite like it here!


  1. Chris, you really could have used this article more in your/our favour. Overpopulated? Indeed. Now how is building 7 storeys of flats on top of the market going to aleviate that problem? It hadn't occurred to me yet... Will the new flats have parking? If so, imagine the traffic. If not, then imagine the parking chaos about to unfold in nearby streets: after all, I doubt the kind of people who would buy luxury apartments are likely to queue up at the crowded bus stops on Uxbridge Road...

    As for greasy cafés, yes... you've named some good ones - but there's no hiding the fact that Uxbridge Road is indeed full of Generic Fried Chicken and Kabab shops that you probably would't dare visit.

    And with regards to cut price emporiums, surely he is referring to the "99p+ or less" shops, a number of which can be seen along the top of the Green and at the start of Uxbridge road. You know, the kind where there's a guy sat outside trying to sell you Lebara Mobile SIM cards - as opposed to anywhere like the market or Goldhawk road's textile shops, which actually have a little bit of local character.

  2. Paul Theroux? Not just an FT correspondent but one of the world's great travel writers. I doubt he wandered beyond the Green and TV Centre though. His son is Louis Theroux, who I think lives fairly close by to the Bush.

  3. Little bit surprised by the phrase 'the temptation may be to dismiss Mr Theroux as the snob his name suggests he is'.

    What do you mean by this? That anyone with French-Canadian ancestry is a snob?!

    Or that you you can judge someone's character simply on the basis of their name?

  4. Yes. I live and work here, and he does have a point. The Green is an abomination. The only thing more depressing than trying to find somewhere interesting/peaceful/nice to eat lunch around the Green, is trying to use the W12 Centre. Or, God forbid, having to shop in Morrisons. That's enough to drive you to suicide. Or murder.

    I quite like its grey malodorous overpopulation, though. It might be noisy, smelly, horrible looking, run-down and a bit frightening. But at least it's not boring.

  5. @ Anonymous #4...

    OUCH. Not great timing for that joke.

  6. I'm always astounded at the number of outlets for fried chicken along the Uxbridge Road. How much fried chicken can anyone eat??? Doesn't anyone ever just long for a piece of fruit...

    Yes, SheBu isn't all bad - but maybe once in a while it's good to hear the negatives!

    And one of the Uxbridge Road kebabbers (NOT King Solamans!) did put a few of its punters in hospital a while back.

  7. At least it's not like Blackpool, where they put the customers IN the kebabs...

  8. Incidentally, that is taken from an extract from an excellent book by Paul Theroux (very little of which is about Shepherd's Bush).

  9. I once went to Blackpool and bumped into a drunken Glaswegian granny with a fake plastic bottom attached to her rear end. She was exceedingly drunk, which is why she fell sideways into me.

  10. Fortunately I live in the Askew Road side of SheBu, close to Ravenscourt Park and I quite like it there. It's not exactly Hampstead, but it has its charms. However, Shepherd's Bush Green (and particularly the Market) are just tragic.

    Most of the beautiful buildings surrounding the Green seem defiled by their cheap 99p stores below and weeds growing from the cracks in the walls above! It could be lovely, but it's just dirty and run down.

    I agree that with the multi-cultural population it could be fantastic - I envision Persian cafes with hookahs and delicious mezes (which need not be expensive) and the market with exotic fruit and vegetables. Instead we get kebab shops which service the drunks, just before they get sick on the pavements, and cheap, plastic tat (for that is what it is) in the market.

    Hardly inspiring. And such a shame.

  11. I have to disagree with JBK about the Market. It has some great fruit and veg stalls together with butchers and fishmongers, all selling good quality produce at very reasonable prices. Add to that the Falafel restaurant and you have a market that caters for the local population. Oh yes, you can also buy cheap mobile phone cases there!

  12. Totally agree with Carl about the market. The food there is of a good quality and there are so many tastes catered for which a supermarket cannot stock. I take my 12-year-old son there every Saturday and we come away with something neither of us have tried before every week. It's a real education for both of us, and we embrace and celebrate the variety of goods on offer.
    BTW I picked up a fabulous new case for my mobile - £5 in the market, £25 in Carphone Warehouse. What's there to complain about?