Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

A finishing-school education can come in very handy
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The Independent Online

Last week, I was invited to open a shop. When I was plain Julia Stephenson, nobody asked me to open so much as an envelope, but now that I am the Green Goddess, all sorts of exciting invitations wing their way to me. The shop in question was The Green Room, a community secondhand shop run by my Green pal Noel Lynch.

I always knew that something I learnt at the Lucie Clayton finishing school would come in handy one day. Fortunately, I have kept my Lucie Clayton Ladies Manual, which contains vital information about how to open a church fete. I was sure that I'd be able to adapt it to the more urban setting of the Archway Road.

Noel is a convivial Irishman. Surgically attached to the Green Party since birth, he was a great support when I was the new green girl on the block. When the mischievous editor of Green World featured me on the cover under the headline "Glamour Green", with details of my illustrious distant relatives (many of whom he had invented), there was a rumpus. Accusations of sexism, lookism, and other "isms" too horrible to repeat in a family newspaper, were flung about.

The "glamour green" faction, who take a light-hearted approach to green issues, and the serious, hardcore faction were at loggerheads. Fortunately, Noel acted as an intermediary and saved the day. I think the only casualty was a white witch from Devon, who resigned her membership over the matter.

Incidentally, when I was next featured in the magazine, proselytising about my worm compost bin, I took care to wear a bag over my head. Despite severe oxygen deprivation, I avoided further controversy.

When I arrived at The Green Room, Noel greeted me with an aptly emerald-green concoction, which, having bolstered my spirits, enabled me to cut a long bamboo leaf (more eco-friendly than ribbon) and declare the shop open.

Then it was time for a rummage through all the curiosities, from dinosaur eggs to Titanic memorabilia to Barbara Windsor's undergarments, and I was delighted to discover a cache of antique Bon Jovi records. I'm very taken by their lead guitarist Ritchie Sambora, who is the Second Handsomest Man in America and makes extensive use of tortured Catholic imagery in his songs. My godless upbringing in Guildford's gin'n'Jag belt has made me painfully susceptible to all forms of organised religion, with a penchant for guilt-ridden Catholic men.

Most of our high streets have lost all their character, so it's cheering to see a community shop, run by and for local people, spring up in one of London's busiest high streets. Noel fought off stiff competition from Tesco, whose horrible inconvenience stores are spreading like a disease. Last year, 2,000 corner shops closed, replaced by characterless supermarkets. My local high street, the King's Road, was once a mecca of innovative British design, but is now a blur of chains and scruffy shoe shops.

London needs more Green Rooms and fewer Tescos. Peepull of London! Vote with your feet!

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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