Another London: Stamford Hill and the West Bank

Yesterday, I went on a day-trip to Stamford Hill ↑, home to London’s largest community of orthodox Jews. I was an unashamed tourist: dawdling around in the sunshine, gawping at the sights, noshing my way through bagels – and, of course, taking tedious photographs to share with you today.

↑ I have no idea what this means, but it sure as hell tells me that I’m a tourist, that I’m an outsider looking in. I like this feeling. I like to be a tourist, it makes me see things.

↑ I do know what this means: this is called irony*! I really wanted to take a photo of an orthodox man who was hanging around near this sign.

This appositely named street is slap-bang in the orthodox heartland. Opposite is a bagel shop, a kosher meat shop and a kosher supermarket.

Followers of irony will also be pleased to hear that the West Bank is separated from the East Bank by a “weak bridge”. The residents of the West Bank are also fighting a losing battle to preserve the West Bank nature reserve.

I kid you not. ↓ (Although these workers are undertaking important conservation work, I’m sure.)

Another highlight of my little holiday was bagel-based. And… ↓

Yes. ↑ Aubergine and chilli peppers. Very pink. Quite tasty with the application of bagel, reminded me of a similar Turkish pepper sos I ate during my No Supermarket days in January.

On the Street

Nothing screams Jewish orthodoxy like a pram. The women also have head scarves or hats (sometimes with charming flowers affixed) and black coats and these odd heavy shoes stitched in leather.

The men wear double-breasted dress coats and stylish wide-brimmed hats, with matching hair-cuts – and glasses. All the men wear glasses, even the kids. Comes from too much reading. I also wonder if it’s a fashion, in the same self-defeating way that kids in my neighbourhood wear their trousers halfway down their arses.

Nothing scares me quite like a large group of people in uniform.

Orthodox men hurry past with mobile phones pressed to their ears – in silence – carrying transparent plastic cases tucked under their arms, which hold (I guess) a book of the Talmud or the Torah and – a pillow?

Three kids walk past, shaved heads and hats and long coats and glasses all – they can’t be much more than twelve years old. They run across the road, chasing the flash of the green man, slightly awkward, like little boys tucked up in oppressive school uniforms.

A tired looking young woman rolls past with her pram.

Another London

I love the fact that I can travel eight miles in my city and find another place entirely. Stamford Hill isn’t all about orthodox Jews, it’s a diverse, fascinating area – like the rest of London.

I walked with swans, alongside the reservoir, admiring the community gardens. I choked on the dust of yet more ‘living space’ construction (19 minutes to Bank) – and was surprised that notices posted were inviting applications for jobs on the building site from local residents. And I took a stroll through the library, browsing the extensive Torah collection, with DVDs and CDs for children.

Hurrah for Stamford Hill.

* Yes it is. Or isn’t. Discuss. It is: orthodox Jews in the one place they shouldn’t be: the “West Bank”. Or it isn’t: orthodox Jews in the one place they should be: the “West Bank”, AKA Judea and Samaria. See: Israel to expand settlements after family killing – The Guardian

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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