Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The two Harrows

I have lived in Harrow for not quite a week and until yesterday had only seen the town centre and tube station - only five minutes from my house. I thought it was high time that I explored the area a bit further so I decided to venture outside my five minute radius.

Harrow town centre is very busy and multicultural, teeming with people from all walks of life. It's a standard suburban town centre, filled with all the high street shops you need but is not that pretty, interesting or unique. If you didn't know any better, you would think that this was all Harrow has to offer.

But there is another Harrow, a 'hidden' Harrow if you will. About twenty minutes walk away from town up a steep hill is Harrow School, the fancy public school for fancy boys. And just past that is Harrow on the Hill, the old village. As I puffed my way up the hill, I suddenly stepped into another world.Gone were the 60s buildings, the bustling roads and constant traffic and there was...quiet.

There was something about it that felt so familiar to me. It was like so many pretty villages that I grew up around. I could have been in Gloucestershire, or Kent or Yorkshire. All I knew is that I definitely did not feel like I was in London anymore. And it calmed me, I must admit. The country girl is still strong in me! The village is only really one main street, with beautiful Georgian (and possibly earlier) architecture. There is an adorable tea room and various other types of shops, including an 'outfitters' for the school which sold what I hope were ironic boater hats (but I fear that Harrow does not do irony). What struck me was the quietness of the whole place. I didn't have to dodge people on the pavement and I could just stroll and take it all in, rather than rush, rush, rush.It was hard to believe that this was technically the same town as the one just down the hill.

The disparity of wealth in the two Harrows did make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, though. It's easy to see how the boys who go to the school would never even see the working class/middle class people of the town below and believe that this pretty, English village is all there is to Harrow. The top Harrow is quaint tea shops and the Harrow below is chain coffee shops (and suspicious-looking pound shops) and never the twain shall meet. One A road and a small hill separates these worlds and it is so strange to me just how different they are.

I do know that if I ever get tired of the hustle and bustle of London, I'll escape up to Harrow on the Hill for an afternoon of peace and quiet.

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