Posted by: roamingolivia | November 22, 2010

Kilburn: go to Matalan


Since moving to Kilburn (my new area of London), or really Cricklewood, I have learned basically one thing. Okay, I have learned two things.

The first is a broad generalisation which is that blondes are relatively rare in this part of town (presumably more rare now that it is Iraqi/Afghan/Iranian than it was when it was Irish), and consequently shopkeepers are very friendly (particularly male ones of a certain age). I don’t really mind because it makes my whole neighborhood feel kind of village-y, and I like that. But my dry cleaner started kissing me (on the cheek) and asked to take me out for a drink, so I think I will go to a new one, even if this will put an abrupt end to the 50% discount I get.

Second, Matalan is basically the only business that matters in Cricklewood. It’s not really clear to me why Matalan is the unique marker of the area, but everything in Cricklewood is defined by its proximity to Matalan. The new gym that just opened? It’s up next to the Matalan. You could say that it is past the B&Q and Poundsaver and Co-Op grocery store, but these are essentially irrelevant in the neighborhood. Indeed: where is the Co-Op and B&Q? You head towards Matalan and take a right on the main street before it.

All of this assumes you (a) know what Matalan is (I didn’t before I moved to Cricklewood and still have not been there),  and (b) know where it is (which you would not necessarily know if you’d just moved). But Matalan in Cricklewood is so important that people, knowing you just moved to the neighborhood, cannot fathom how it is possible you would be unaware of its location.

To confirm its centrality, it appears that people come to Cricklewood just to go to the Matalan. The other day I was walking to get keys cut (by the way, do not get your keys cut in Cricklewood, they’re rubbish at it), and a woman stopped to ask for directions. “Do you know where the Matalan is?” she asked. “It’s meant to be that direction,” I said, pointing beyond the Argos and Co-Op. She probably asked the only person in the neighborhood who’s never been there.

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