England is well known the world over for historic Stratford-on-Avon, home of Shakespeare and ye olde genuine tea shoppes. However, I live just down the road from the other Stratford, home of cheap market stalls and a gridlocked ring-road. Stratford straddles the Greenwich Meridian, with the newly renovated station in the Western hemisphere and the cavernous shopping centre just a pedestrian crossing away in the Eastern hemisphere. Stratford could not under any circumstances be described as a cultural centre, a decent retail centre or even a place worth visiting. However, plans are afoot to change all that...
The one thing that Stratford does have is excellent rail connections. Trains run from here to Liverpool Street, Docklands, East Anglia, Neasden, Ruislip and, when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link arrives in 2007, Paris. It may not be the greatest place to live, but it is definitely a great place to travel away from. Property prices round have risen so quickly that, had I bought a flat in Stratford last year, I could probably sell it today at a profit exceeding the gross national product of a small African country.
Stratford's new Eurostar station is planned to be at the heart of a billion pound regeneration scheme, bringing new homes and a huge metropolitan, business and retail centre to the area. It's got to be a huge improvement on one Woolworths, one Argos and a Pizza Hut, which is as good as it gets at the moment.
Today a report has suggested that Stratford should be at the centre of a UK bid for the Olympics in 2012. In ten years time the whole international world of sport and athletics could be arriving on my doorstep, although quite frankly we have a big enough drug problem round here as it is.
Sydney, Athens, Beijing... Stratford? I'm really looking forward to living somewhere potentially bigger than Shakespeare.