"A sprawling North London parkland, composed of oaks, willows and chestnuts, yews and sycamores, the beech and the birch; that encompasses the city's highest point and spreads far beyond it; that is so well planted it feels unplanned; that is not the country but it is no more garden than Yellowstone; that has a shade of green for every possible felicitation of light; that paints itself in russets and ambers in the autumn, canary-yellow in the splashy spring; with tickling bush grass to hide teenage lovers and joint smokers, broad oaks for brave men to kiss against, mown meadows for summer ball games, hills for kites, ponds for hippies, an icy lido for old men with strong constitutions, mean llamas for mean children and for the tourists, a country house, its facade painted white enough for any Hollywood close-up, complete with a tea room, although anything you buy from there should be eaten outside with the grass beneath your toes, sitting under the magnolia tree, letting the white upturned bells of blossoms, blush-pink at their tips, fall all around you. Hampstead Heath! Glory of London! Where Keats walked and Jarman fucked, where Orwell exercised his weakened lungs and Constable never failed to find something holy"
- Zadie Smith, "On Beauty"
(Because I don't have to explain why the only place in London I would consider moving to (from three minutes away from Regents Park) is three minutes away from the Heath)
To tell you the truth, it didn't start out that way. At first, we tried to convince ourselves that we were open to other neighborhoods. We would look at it if it satisfied two conditions - a reasonably large park close by, and 15 minutes to get to Kings Cross (door to National Rail). Islington lost out because of the first condition, as did most of the close-to-City neighborhoods. Bayswater lost because of the second, and the other areas around Hyde Park weren't exactly our favorite neighborhoods. Not just because we couldn't afford it. But because what will we do around diplomats and American expats and Harrods shoppers and the Notting Hill crowd? That pretty much left our little neighborhood, north of Marylebone maybe a little way up to St Johns Wood. But since one of the reasons for this moving idea is that we should try some other neighborhood (the other reason being getting a little more space, if possible), we had pretty much decided not to move. Then we gave in a little and said maybe the river will do instead of the park. That gave us the London Bridge area, east of the Tower Bridge but wait, the bankers! Oh no. If we moved there, our entire year will be spent bitching about the "high IQ morons" who live around us in these convereted warehouses. I mean, imagine Bill and moi living next to these bankers in Shad Thames. See, see now. I would so do that if I was writing one of those "undercover" books, yes.
So then we gave up on everything else and said yes, Hampstead is expensive and it has just the Northern Line and its not Zone 1 BUT it has the Heath. Which we so love. If there's one place in London that you won't hear me complaining about (or comparing to the city by the lake), its the Heath. And the Northern line from Hampstead will get to Kings Cross in less than 15 minutes. We should at least check the neighborhood out. We owe it to the Heath.
So it was on a glorious Saturday morning we got on a bus to check out the neighborhood. Out of habit, we just went straight to the Heath instead of getting down at the High St. Up Parliament Hill road, into the Heath and up the Hill. As usual, random mix of locals and tourists sitting on benches enjoying the view. Photos being shot. We do our usual comedy.
"You know someone's going to shoot us one of these days. Especially if we move here"
"Hey, freedom of speech remember?"
"Nonsense. You keep making fun of these people, they aren't going to tolerate it"
"Oh c'mon. These Brits are crazy. This is so like the whole Changing of the Guard thing. All they do is dress up and walk up and down for an hour and its some big deal. Tradition, my foot"
"Who said I don't agree? But you can't come to Parliament Hill every day and make fun of people who are here to see the skyline view"
"Skyline. Ha Ha Ha! Skyline, indeed. Rooftop view, I would call it. All these cute Victorian houses. Chal, lets count how many rooftops we see"
"People are staring at us"
"So? If the city doesn't have a skyline, it doesn't have a skyline. Just because you climb up a Hill, wait, a mound called Parliament and claim its a skyline doesn't make it anything of the sort."
"Enough, lets go"
"I love America"
"Too loud. Not the right sentiment in this liberal haven. Chal lets go"
The next couple of hours was spent in the Heath taking in everything you have read about already in the beginning of this post. We got lost a couple of times but that's what you are meant to do in the Heath so it turned out to be fine. Finally we got out and decided to walk up and down streets to see if they made sense. They did.
"Squirrel Hill man"
"Too hep to be Squirrel Hill. I'd say Shadyside"
"Its the Shady Ave part of the Shadyside. Also that Amberson Ave types near where you and BM used to live"
"Yeah, but its all up and down like Negley. Hmm"
"So you like it?"
"I think so, yes. What's that?"
"Some street festival. Probably a block party."
"Looks nice. Good music"
"Way too many kids"
"Fuck, yes. Forget what I said. We won't live here"
"I know. Kids could be a problem. Plus even if we want to, they wouldn't let us live here. We wouldn't qualify"
A few minutes later we are at the Heath St.
"Dude, this is nice"
"I know. Such lovely cafes and these stores are nice too"
"Wait, whats that queue there?"
"Its some food stall. Wait, its a creperie. With 15 people waiting in line. I am going there"
"I don't know man. It looks like some general stall"
"You go do something else. I want crepes"
Bill comes back twenty minutes later.
"You have hardly moved!"
"That's because they make those crepes in front of you. Mouth watering, they are. Look, they are some big deal around here. They have all those press things written about them"
"Whatever. I am a little skeptical. But we will see"
We finally get out crepes. A slab of butter. Buckwheat batter. Chocolate and banana. All together. Bill gets the classic ratatouille. I take a bite. Bill's paying (for once). I take another bite. I cross the street and run away. There's no way in hell I am sharing this with him.
"Hey, where did you run away?"
"Here only. I was just looking at this bus timetable to see whether you can get to Kings Cross if the Northern line is not functioning. There's a bus that takes you to KC in 12 minutes. All's cool"
"So you have decided to move here?"
"Have you tried the crepe?"
"Try it and tell me you don't want to move here"
"Orgasmic, isn't it?"
"Close. Close. Let me try yours."
"No...wait, here's a Waterstone's. A bookstore so close. See, good choice to move here. Come lets go in"
Inside Waterstone's. I am somewhere in popular fiction. Local author, it says, Julian Barnes. Zadie Smith. Hmm.
"Hey, you should come check this out"
"Come, check this section"
I follow Bill. A huge section. Jewish interest.
"Oh, I didn't tell you. I was thinking about it when I said Squirrel Hill. The area north of here, like north of the station and then going up to Golders Green"
"Its all supposed to be all majorly intellectual and all. Also, euphemism for Jewish"
"Okay then. We are moving here"
"Righto Mr Eli Feynman. We are indeed moving here"
See, moving decisions are that easy. All you have to do is to get your priorities right.
PS: This doesn't mean we are moving. We haven't even started looking at flats. Excuse to check out neighborhoods really.
 For those of you who think I am mean to Bill, please read the sentence again. You will see how considerate I really am.
 I know, it gets a little too yuppie around here sometimes with all the LBS crowd moving in and all but you can't have everything, you know.
 Bill's very Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh
 I am not making this up. There was a time when Bill used to call restaurants for reservations under the name of Eli Feynman. It was very interesting to watch people go crazy when we actually turned up.
 Coined by BM. Please to ask her for details