Meeting with a Paddington girl

A special highlight before Christmas was my meeting with Elaine in Westbourne Park. Elaine has lived in Westbourne park all her life and on the same road for most of it: ‘Like the song says: I’m a west end girl’. We talked for over two hours and she told me many stories about how the area and London in general have changed since her youth.

There used to be a large variety of shops in Harrow Road, where today there are only two: an Iceland and a Coop. ‘People never moved away from that road. They did all their shopping and went home’. Up until the 80s, people from different parts of London didn’t mix on a regular basis. ‘People would come to the West end to do a bit of shopping’, and she liked to go out to the clubs in the East end occasionally. But other than that, Elaine stayed local.

This also affected the accents heard in London. ‘Back then, you could tell if a boy was from the East end’ by the way he talked and the way he dressed: ‘He would always be a bit cocky – cheeky, a bit sure of himself’. Nowadays, Elaine doesn’t really perceive London accents from the east, west, south or north as very different anymore.

Demographic change has turned Westbourne Park into a multicultural area and in her street alone, there is ‘every nationality and language under the sun’. She says ‘I like it! I wouldn’t like it to be all English. Everybody gets on and I don’t know of a single person who has had an argument with a neighbour.’

She says ‘I love this area. I’ve never felt safe until I get off the bus round here. I know the people and the people know me.’ She will never move away, even though her brothers used to say to her ‘How can you live round here?’. Her answer is clear: ‘I am what I am, and I’m a Paddington girl’.

Paddington girl Elaine
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