diamond geezer

 Saturday, February 04, 2012

Diamond Street Stonebridge, NW10
That's Stonebridge, close to Stonebridge Park, the next station up the line from Harlesden and Willesden Junction. Just round the back of the Neasden temple, that's where my first Diamond-named street lies. It's also the newest of the lot, built as part of a decade-long 21st century redevelopment project which has seen the demolition of one of London's most notorious estates. The original Stonebridge Park Estate emerged in the late 1960s, replacing a Victorian suburban development with council-funded tower blocks. You know the drill - hopes of highrise utopia gradually dashed by broken-down lifts, increasing crime and communal misery - until Stonebridge Park wasn't somewhere you'd want to even visit, let alone live. How the area's changed. That's partly thanks to the Stonebridge Housing Action Trust (who have the most unfortunate acronym), but mostly due to the gradual removal of concrete monolith after concrete monolith, and their replacement by something hugely more pleasant. All of the replacement buildings are lowrise brick, none higher than four storeys, and yet the council's still managed to relocate all the residents from the old in the new. Now a tangled web of broad streets covers the area, with the most fortunate houses lining the landscaped Brent Feeder - a 200 year old channel linking the Welsh Harp Reservoir to the Grand Union Canal. From the footbridge follow Sapphire Road uphill, and at the crossroads this magically metamorphoses into Diamond Street. It's a quiet junction, quiet enough on my visit to be the kickabout location of choice for three small boys. A long dribble, a wallside tap, and then the recovery of aforesaid football from beneath a parked-up truck. Excitingly this street corner features the first VG Store I've seen in many a decade. It's not got the VG logo I remember, and the windows are bedecked only with photos of generic fruit, but this is still a Very Good convenience outlet for those living hereabouts. Flats above, with smooth curving balconies, and more flats alongside - the Diamond Street 26-42 Evens. These aren't bad as modern blocks go, mostly brick and glass but with understated metalwork features throughout. Numbers 2-24, on the other hand, are proper houses, laid out in a long brown terrace with rooms inside for above-average-sized families. Walk up the pavement to the T-junction at top of the slope and you'll likely spot the inhabitants pass, or peer from a window, or park up outside. On the corner with Ruby Street I spy a group of black-coated ladies and daughters, standing gossiping in that blessed hour immediately after attending church. It's an especially Afro-Caribbean neighbourhood around here, but not exclusively, and any taint of the old crime-ridden estate feels long gone. Clean, unthreatening, desirable - London's youngest Diamond Street is a rare triumph of post-blight cohesion.
[streetmap] [streetview] [street name] [street photo]

Diamond Road South Ruislip, HA4
I'm glad that at least one of these half-dozen streets lies in proper suburbia. Far from the centre of London, South Ruislip's virtually Metroland, except that the local tube line's orange, not purple. In this corner of Hillingdon history doesn't really kick off until the fields were ploughed for housing, which'd be about 75 years ago. And this was the era of King George V's Silver Jubilee, so it's no surprise to find roads named Royal Crescent and Jubilee Drive. Diamond Road begins on the latter, at an anonymous corner which could be anywhere west of Wembley, marked by a lone dogmess bin on a narrow verge. First up are a few flats, thirties style, one unfortunate enough to have a public phonebox in its front garden. They'd never stand for open access further up the road. Diamond Road bends ninety degrees to become a tree-lined avenue of perfect semis. The dominant features are a first floor acute-angled bathroom window, and a brick arch (of varying dimensions) looping over the front porch. Although there are subtle difference between adjacent pairs, and even the occasional bungalow to break up the pattern, the entire street hangs together architecturally in a repeated motif of angular brown and white. Many houses still have the original stained glass panels in a downstairs window, probably something ornate and floral, in a variety of bright primary colours. A few front gardens are still a riot of well-tended foliage, or they would be were it not midwinter. One householder is up a ladder, chopping every branch from a roof-high fir tree, leaving behind a forlorn limbless trunk poking up into the leylandii nextdoor. A ginger tabby pads out onto the pavement through a gap in a very low hedge. Nothing much happens, for some considerable time, but then that's suburbia for you. Cut through the one street to the south and you end up on Victoria Road, which is South Ruislip's answer to an out-of town mall. All those big stores that sell electrical goods and furniture, they're all here, as well as a Kwik Fit and a Halfords and a Wickes. In the car park a small white trailer is parked up, dispensing burgers, hot dogs and hot drinks to any shopper who requires refreshment between warehouse stops. Nobody's biting. This retail park's all terribly convenient for the residents of Diamond Road, who could easily walk, except I bet they drive because driving's the done thing around here. The great majority of houses have paved over the space between building and street, all the better for parking up probably two cars, the first quite possibly a BMW, the second a smaller hatchback. It's not ridiculously comfortable living out here, but it's pleasant, and peaceful, and a darned sight more aspirational than most of its London namesakes. I spent most of my childhood living in a semi-detached house exactly like those here, and Diamond Road feels very much like home.
[streetmap] [streetview] [street name] [street photo]

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