Elmbourne Road, June 2015. I always enjoy my annual trips to London. With my nomadic existence the way it is, I only manage to make it back once a year. But these visits feel so good for the soul, a much-needed recharge of my internal battery. I can tune in and out of English conversations, stuff myself with all the foods I miss and go and see my beloved QPR at Loftus Road. These days my London home is Tooting Bec in the southern borough of Wandsworth. An old friend of mine has a house in Elmbourne Road on the edge of Tooting Bec Common; so it’s here that I come to remind myself that I am in fact English.
Walker Wyatt Coffee Shop, October 2015. Whenever I’m in town, my mate and I have a morning coffee ritual at this wonderful little independent café on Upper Tooting Road. The staff are friendly, the coffee is to die for (I swing between a one-shot Latte and a Mocha) and it’s virtually impossible not to pickup a croissant, a flapjack or a caramel shortbread. A local estate agent, Walker Wyatt, owns the shop and these days their actual office is located right in the corner of the café itself! Sectioned off in a transparent glass box, the dude inside doesn’t seem to mind the fact that everyone can see what he’s doing.
Tooting Common, April 2017. Having Tooting Common on my doorstep is something I never take for granted when I’m here. Perfect for an afternoon run, there are football pitches, tennis courts, woodland trails, horse-riding paths, wildlife areas, a historic Victorian-era café and this pretty lake home to swans, ducks and turtles. My weeklong stay in April 2017 saw an amazing stretch of unseasonably warm weather, so the lake’s resident turtles were out in force sunning themselves on their rock.
Harrington’s Pie & Mash, April 2017. A piping hot bowl of pie, mash and liquor is a long-standing pre-football tradition in my family. When I was a kid my dad used to take me to A. Cooke’s in Shepherd’s Bush for a hearty feed on the way to see QPR. But sadly Cooke’s shut its doors for good in the summer of 2015 and now only exists for online orders. “There’s a pie and mash place in Tooting Bec!” my friend told me; so off we went to this time capsule eatery on Selkirk Road. The moment you walk through the door it feels like you’ve been transported back to the 1950s, which might well be the last time the place enjoyed a lick of paint. Nevertheless, the old dear behind the counter is exceptionally friendly and the food is plentiful, honest, working class grub that warms the cockles. There are four family-size booths to sit at, a large wooden stencil of a sailboat on the main wall and Harry Potter themed boxes for the condiments.
Tooting Bec Underground Station, April 2017. Wherever I go during my London excursions, it invariably starts here at the local tube stop. Situated on the northern line between Balham and Tooting Broadway, the station was designed by legendary London Underground architect Charles Holden and opened its doors in 1926. No matter my destination, it seems I can get wherever I need to go in about forty minutes, from Greenwich and Hampstead, to Victoria Coach Station, Loftus Road and Hyde Park. And I’m always a bit tickled by the Thought of the Day board in the main hall. Armed to the teeth with luggage as I head off to Heathrow Airport for yet another year in China, I pause for a moment to take in a dose of Tooting Bec wisdom: Ageing Is About Mind Over Matter. If you Don’t Mind, Then It Doesn’t Matter – Mark Twain.