Recycled Westbourne Grove: a call from Bjork

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The Independent Online
From the shops of Queensway, past cheap Indian restaurants, designer furnishers, run-down grocers, video stores - through the nightmare, five- way Chepstow Corner where the buses terrify the bravest cyclist. This is Westbourne Grove, where poverty and wealth exist side by side as nowhere else in London.

I pedal past Madonna's favourite jewellers, the Antony Worrall Thompson restaurant and a sudden clutch of antique shops, to the very centre, where eccentricity crowds upon chi-chi health club, where the ultimate designer caff overlooks prizewinning public toilets - the very point where, each year the Carnival parade is judged. Where else would you expect to pass by Bjork, surely the oddest woman in town?

I push on towards Portobello, and the realisation comes only when I've cycled a few yards past. She sits alone on a bench outside the pub, mobile clamped to her ear, a bizarre collage of unrelated garments and the earnest, squeaky sound of her voice in what I assume is Icelandic, and, even judging from that tiny snippet, was evidently of some importance or concern.

What could possibly be of concern to this strange lady? It must be the pursuit of some creative endeavour, a new venture into realms of music, sexuality and art with which to bemuse and fascinate her public.

Or maybe it is a recalcitrant boyfriend, some pushy impresario.

The Grove: poverty and wealth, design and eccentricity, glam and Christianity; elegant beauties, down-and-out beasts. This tiny woman, multicultural, arty and intense, evident wealth in Oxfam clothes, personifies it all.

Pedal along the Grove any day of the week, and you will find it's London's passeggiata. This is a wonderful, brave, spirited area, and Bjork is perhaps its definitive inhabitant.

Peter Reynolds

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