Want to make out you live somewhere far cooler than you actually do? Jessica Cargill Thompson can help.
We all know someone who does it and, according to a recent survey by Privilege home insurance, at least a third of twentysomethings are guilty of it – lying about where we live. A photographer friend of mine has always claimed to live in Tooting (or ‘the new Shoreditch’ as Time Out archly called it recently) as he doesn’t want to be seen as one of those Streatham gentrifiers (even though he is). Meanwhile another pal lives in Peckham when talking to mates, East Dulwich to his insurer and estate agent, and Dulwich to his parents and employer. And if all the people who claim to live in Crouch End actually did, rather than a short bus ride away in Hornsey, the place would be rammed to the rafters. If you want to pimp your postcode or boost your ’burb, here’s how to do it in style.
Big up your borough
There’s only so far you can stretch geography (calling Kilburn ‘North Notting Hill’ would be pushing it), but London’s boroughs are big enough to embrace a multitude of sins. Rotherhithe dwellers can honestly say they live in Southwark with a confidence that makes it sound like they reside in the shadow of the Globe, though in reality they live four miles away. Only pedants, when you say you live in Greenwich, will ask you to clarify: ‘Maritime, Peninsula or Royal Borough of?’ Meaning you could just as easily be living in villagey Blackheath or actual Greenwich as you could in – let’s go with ‘edgy’ – Kidbrooke.
Work that postcode
Knowing our city’s postcodes is like having GCSE London. Saying you live in E15 might lead clued-up Londoners to assume you live in Stratford or Bow rather than, say, Leytonstone. It also looks good on a T-shirt.
Live somewhere that sounds much nicer than it really is
People will be amazed by the bargain you’ve found in bucolic-sounding Thamesmead, East Ham or Thornton Heath – until they come to visit. Note: this approach will only work on tourists, new-in-towners and gullible relatives.
Add compass points to somewhere fairly near somewhere much better
For example, King’s Cross has already become ‘North Bloomsbury’, so surely Elephant & Castle has the potential to be ‘South Bankside’ (or ‘South South Bank’ if you really want), Twickenham becomes ‘West Richmond’ and Hounslow ‘West Twickenham’. And that Pimlico council flat you live in – ‘South Belgravia’, darling.
Simply adding the word ‘village’ to any otherwise nondescript or grim-sounding neighbourhood works wonders. Try it. ‘Neasden Village’. ‘Catford Village’. ‘Dagenham Village’. See? And as almost everywhere in London was once a village, it’s probably historically accurate. This approach also works with ‘Quarter’, ‘Old Town’, ‘Central’ and ‘Riverside’ (and if the latter works for Barking, it can work for you).
Holborn now calls itself ‘Midtown’. Trying to make Fitzrovia sound cool a few years ago by calling it ‘Noho’ (it’s north of Soho, you see) was met with disdain, but renaming Stratford’s Olympic Village ‘East Village’ looks like it’s having more takers.
Know when to admit defeat
Let’s face it, some place names still take a lot of PR, swagger or love of irony to pull off. Penge, Tring, Feltham, Cockfosters and Pratt’s Bottom all fall into this category. And there may be a reason you’ve never met anyone who admits to living in the Enfield enclave of Freezywater. Or should that be South Waltham Cross?
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