Right of Reply: Phillip Knightley

The author and Notting Hill resident takes issue with our coverage of his neighbourhood

NOTTING HILL Gate, where I have lived for the past 40 years, is a very different place than the one portrayed in The Independent during the Peter Mandelson affair. There may be a few stars of politics, stage, screen, radio, TV, the modelling and fashion world who have chosen Notting Hill - often in the hope of a quiet time - but there are also a lot of hard-working, ordinary people just getting on with their lives who are none too happy to see their neighbourhood described as "exclusive... chic... fashionable... trendy..."

We all came here because of pleasant, tree-lined streets, tasteful, understated architecture, not much traffic, good public transport, and - at the time - reasonable prices. And even before Lady Porter, Westminster City Council would give you a generous home loan with interest at 6.5 per cent fixed for all the 25-year period, and then offer you a grant or two to help refurbish the place. Was this a suspect deal? Should I have registered it?

We stayed because the cosmopolitan nature of the area represented multi- cultural London at its best. There are restaurants of 17 different national cuisines within five minutes walk. The local junior school, Hallfield, counted 26 different nationalities among its pupils when my three kids were there - the broadest cultural mix in the country.

We even enjoyed the notoriety the area once had - Christine Keeler, "Lucky" Gordon (I had a Christmas card for him from Jamaica just the other day), the Mangrove cafe in All Saints Road (the best flying fish in London), and the excitement of the biggest street carnival in Europe.

All right, everything in the area is now expensive. A house is going to cost you half a million, an ordinary drink at the Cobden - once a working men's club, now a chic members-only night-spot - is pounds 4. But Notting Hill is not exclusive. It remains, as it has always done, an inclusive area, a real melting pot.

Moreover all things considered, we get on well with each other. As the kids at Hallfield sing every morning:

And the creed and the colour and the name don't matter,

When I needed a neighbour you were there.

Precisely.

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