You'll never guess where I went today. ... OK, you've guessed!
It's the first time I've been to Southall since 23rd April 1979. How can I be so specific? That was the night Blair Peach died. On the streets of Southall. But that's another story.
This has for decades been London's Punjabi town - it still is.
Southall's Broadway is a fun place to be - my wife says it reminds her of Delhi's Karolbagh in the old days. The shops spill out into the streets - selling bangles, scarves, jewellery, making jalebis, selling corn (not the grilled 'butta' on the cob, but tubs of sweetcorn - not quite the same). There are lots of Punjabi cafes - the one where we had chole bhature is run by a Hindu family from Jallandhar who moved to Southall in the '60s.
White faces are rare, and those you see often - much like me - have a south Asian in tow.
The shopkeeper selling these headscarves tried to charge me for the privilege of snapping them. Cheekier than in old Delhi! The conversation when a bit like this:
'Five Pounds for the photo'.
Brief stunned silence. 'This is a pavement!'
'Just joking' - but I don't think he was.
Anu said she was surprised that Punjabis of all three of the region's main faiths - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims - appeared to mix so easily together. At first glance, it's uniformly Asian - at second glance, it's syncretic in a manner that Punjab used to be but hasn't been, either side of the border, since 1947.
Amid all the Punjabi bling, standing there a little bit like Canute as the tide came in, is good old Greggs, about as resolute a standard bearer for old-fashioned Englishness as you could imagine. God bless yer!
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