IN CONVERSATION WITH: James [Haggerston]

The KOMPAS Team have been chatting with some Londoners about their favourite place in the city, and why it means so much to them, for a project called KOMPAS Stories. This week, we’ve been speaking to James, who gave us a fresh perspective on his stomping ground of Haggerston.

I chose Haggerston, which is where I live now. It is quite a small little area but it is actually quite… cool. A lot of people actually don’t even know where it is. I moved in with my girlfriend a year ago in Haggerston, literally next to the station. I guess it was the first flat I’ve ever lived in with a girl… I have lived with girls before but you know – one that occasionally wants to have sex with me. I think it was the first place in London where I’ve felt like it was my home very quickly after moving here. It was the first time I’ve felt like I’ve had a home that was totally mine… the first time we ever bought furniture and could sort of decorate in the way I want.

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Funnily enough, the two places we want to live in the London, we can pretty much see from our flat. We overlook Haggerston tube station. Our flat is a really cool mezzanine place, so it’s got 20 foot windows, double story, with a lounge and then a big balcony and bedroom. It’s awesome – but there is the tube line basically just below us like 6 metres away. If that wasn’t there I’m sure we definitely couldn’t afford the flat. There’s a little park at the back called Stonebridge Park, which on the map is tiny… but there’s a basketball court and ping pong tables. Loads of people take dogs there and stuff. And then just over the back of that is called Albion Square. It’s beautiful… like a nice proper West London-type area. There’s a little park in the middle, all the houses are 4 stories – it’s the dream. Lara even knows which house she wants to buy. We looked into it and the only one for rent was over £4000 a month in rent so yeah, probably one for the future, the far, distant future.

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And then on the other side of Kingsland Road is De Beauvoir Town, and De Beauvoir Square. And that’s even nicer – with an even bigger park. It’s a weird thing in London: living in a place, and your ideal place to live, 6 places down the line when you’re 50 and maybe have some money, is actually just next door. It’s sort of nice having that… we’re here now but we can see the long-term goal. We can almost imagine ourselves being 60 years old, living in one of these houses… renting probably from other people still. So that’s quite nice – we can just see our futures together really closely knit to that area. Plus the canal is really close and there are some great pubs.

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Duke’s Brew & Que, run by Beavertown Brewery, is a barbeque joint, with a small bar area to it as well. And there’s La Cabina, which is like a small, underground late night bar, with tapas and cocktails and stuff. It looks like a door with a phone box on it, and you used to have to dial a number on it to open it. That’s always a tried and tested, open until 4 am, good place. The King’s Head, which is a private members club which we got a membership for because it was on Groupon. That’s a super cool, dilapidated pub from the outside. It looks like a total shithole but you go in and it’s beautiful. There’s tonnes and tonnes of taxidermy in there. Apparently, they take dead animals from London Zoo – which die naturally. That’s incredible. There’s a club in the basement, and different rooms… There’s a butterfly room with hundreds of butterflies pinned to the wall.

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When I was living in my previous mate’s house in Hoxton, which is really very close… We’ve got a group called The Lords of Mystery Shelf. There’s only 4 of us in it. Me and my 3 best mates. We all kept going on holiday abroad and people kept giving us random alcohols from whatever country we were in. So we ended up just acquiring loads of this random stuff. There was this one called Brugal, which is a Dominican Republic rum, 70%. I got it from an old chef of mine at a pub that I was managing at the time. It was brutal. One night we had two shots each and a few beers, and we said we’re going to go down to Kingsland Road. The rule is we walk north, and if we pass a place that serves alcohol, we have to go in for a drink. I think we made it to 4 places before… well, I don’t remember what happened, it just ended. One of the places we walked into was like one of those really pitch black… not our sort of scene clubs, which had just opened and there was no one in there. We walked in and we were like, ‘no, it’s a rule’, and so we did some shots of something and left pretty quickly. That was a good night.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation with James about Haggerston. Below is a handy little map of some of the places he mentioned in his story. What’s your favourite place in London? Why does it mean so much to you? Tell us in the comments.

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