One man’s heaven is another man’s Chelsea

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a well-heeled retiree couple at the junction of Fulham Road and Beaufort Street in Chelsea. They wanted to go to Sloane Court East, a smart residential street just South of Sloane Square. As I set off the lady said to me “oh, and please don’t go via St Leonard’s Terrace, I can’t bear St Leonard’s Terrace, let’s go along the Embankment”. Now, any cabbie will tell you that having spent three or four years learning the Knowledge of London they consider themselves pretty good at choosing the right route, but our passengers’ eccentricities are unfathomable, and you can be accused of trying to rip someone off when you’ve just taken them along the most beautiful straight line possible. I mean I once had someone suggest I use the Marylebone Road to get from Oxford Street to Aldwych, but that’s another story.

To get from the top of Beaufort Street to Sloane Court East an enthusiastic cabbie would be wanting to go East along the Fulham Road for a bit, cut down gradually to the Kings Road using some lovely little showy side streets, head towards Sloane Square and then, yes, take a right, go via St Leonard’s Terrace, and get into Sloane Court East from the top at Turk’s Row. These are all classic Knowledge tactics. To go via the Embankment from there is a fairly substantial and completely unnecessary detour that’s going to add at least a quid or two to the metered fare, but hey, the lady loathes St Leonard’s Terrace, and who am I to argue?

So we go straight down Beaufort Street to the Embankment, head East, come back up Royal Hospital Road towards Pimlico, and do a left into Sloane Court East, where they get out happy, very complimentary in fact about the excellent driving, the sensible route and the polite driver. They give me an extra pound and go up the steps to their modest and no doubt ludicrously expensive mansion block the very picture of a sweet, moneyed and relaxed old couple. I liked them, but I couldn’t get the lady’s antipathy towards St Leonard’s Terrace out of my head, so I went around the corner and took a picture of it.

I mean, what’s so bad about St Leonard’s Terrace?

Image

It looks alright to me.

If you head due East from ghastly St Leonard’s Terrace for about four miles you’ll find yourself in the altogether different territory of Surrey Quays. I don’t imagine my Sloane Court East lady would like it much here either. There’s a particularly desolate one-way system on the main road from Greenwich to the City that twists and turns past council housing blocks, workshops and run down shops, and along there somewhere is a road sign advising you to get in lane. Here it is:

Image

Forgive me for pointing out that Malibu and Laurel Canyon are not actually around these parts, but the sign has been like this since at least April 2012 when it was captured on Google Street View, so I’m not sure anyone who might want to do anything about it has noticed it’s amiss. The semi-permanence of the alteration, and the delicate care taken over it, almost make it seem as if there is a collective act of will going on here. As if, if we only believe, we really can end up in Malibu rather than Peckham when we take the left-hand lane. That if we close our eyes and dream, we can all escape our personal Chelseas and go to the places of our most wondrous imaginings instead.

“Oh, I simply can’t stand the Rotherhithe Old Road. Take me via Laurel Canyon, will you?”

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About ianbeetlestone

Cabbie & writer
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4 Responses to One man’s heaven is another man’s Chelsea

  1. Silvia says:

    Couldn’t agree more – St Leonard’s Terrace is so frightful – all that stucco and trees

  2. Philip says:

    Splendid

  3. Pingback: A Line of Beauty | Words on the Street

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