…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
My Life in Kensington: A Journey from Hull to London
I was brought up in Hull, but in 1964, I loaded a van with all my paintings and embarked on a journey to London, knowing deep down that I would never return.
Since 1981, I have been residing in my present address near Gloucester Road, except for a 20-year period when my partner Caroline and I lived in the Hotel Chelsea in New York.
This place holds a special significance for me.
Kensington’s Evolution Subtitle: Witnessing Kensington’s Transformation
I’ve witnessed Kensington undergo significant changes throughout the years.
It used to have a vibrant student atmosphere, and to some extent, it still does, but it has become much more gentrified and upscale over time.
Culinary Delights Subtitle: The Best Eating and Drinking Establishments
Sally Clarke’s Restaurant on Kensington Church Street:
Sally Clarke’s restaurant on Kensington Church Street is an extraordinary establishment.
Mentored by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, Clarke offers a classic American take on French cuisine.
Maggie Jones’s Restaurant on Old Court Place:
Maggie Jones’s on Old Court Place holds a special place in my heart.
It was Princess Margaret’s favorite restaurant, and they renamed it in the early Seventies after her preferred alias for booking.
I particularly enjoy sitting in the basement, observing the culinary magic unfold before my eyes.
Memories of India and Guillam Coffee House:
Memories of India on Gloucester Road serves exquisite Indian cuisine, conveniently located next to Guillam Coffee House, where I satisfy my caffeine cravings.
If I ever feel like visiting a pub, The Builders Arms around the corner is my go-to place for a fantastic pub lunch.
Fitness and Leisure Subtitle: Where I Work Out and Find Cultural Inspiration
Although I’m not a runner, I make up for it with extensive walking.
In my studio, I put on some afrobeats music and dance for nearly an hour.
Despite my age and occasional unsteadiness, I am recklessly enthusiastic when I dance.
Kensington offers a plethora of cultural attractions.
The renowned V&A and the Design Museum are among the prominent institutions, with the latter making great strides in promoting the arts.
The current Ai Weiwei exhibition is simply brilliant.
Surprisingly, I don’t visit the nearby Royal Albert Hall as often as I should, considering it’s just a five-minute walk away.
I vividly recall Patti Smith’s astounding concert there around 18 months ago, especially since my former New York studio was once shared by Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Ciné Lumière and the Institut Français:
Reminiscent of the old Paris Pullman on Drayton Gardens, the Ciné Lumière on Queensberry Place creates a similar atmospheric experience, and I appreciate the charm it exudes.
Nature’s Serenity Subtitle: Communing with Nature in Kensington
Holland Park and Kensington Gardens:
Holland Park, a hidden gem, offers a delightful green space, while Kensington Gardens boasts picturesque wild areas.
As I strive to improve my ability to identify birdsongs, I often encounter an abundance of blue tits and finches, though the presence of parrots can sometimes be overwhelming.
My preferred route involves walking a straight mile from Kensington Gardens to the end of Hyde Park, followed by a complete circuit around.
Beautiful Garden Squares:
The abundance of beautiful garden squares in Kensington never fails to amaze me.
Each time I vary my walking route, I stumble upon a different square, each with its own unique charm.
Everyday Necessities Subtitle: The Essentials of Kensington Life
While there is a Waitrose and a Marks & Spencer on the high street, I prefer supporting smaller suppliers.
Lidgate’s Butchers on Holland Park Avenue is my preferred destination for meat, and Ross Food & Wine on Gloucester Road is a fantastic little grocery store and deli that has been serving my day-to-day needs for over 40 years.
Pimlico Road Farmers’ Market:
On Saturday mornings, I make it a point to visit the Pimlico Road farmers’ market to catch up with Joe Tilson, a fellow Royal Academician, and his wife Jos.
It’s a delightful opportunity for a chat and some leisurely time together.
Navigating Kensington Subtitle: Transportation and Dream Streets
In the 1970s, I decided to give up my car.
The number 9 bus conveniently takes me to the Royal Academy, while the 49 bus transports me to Green & Stone on Fulham Road, my trusted source for art supplies.
If a bus isn’t readily available, I opt for a black cab, as I thoroughly enjoy the conversations with the drivers.
While some may be grumpy, most of them are incredibly engaging.
Tucked away behind Scarsdale Villas, you can find some stunning purpose-built artists’ studios.
Admittedly, I’m not above coveting other people’s studios or houses.
I recall the artist Ken Howard once remarking, “David, there’s no way you’re not going to be jealous when you see my studio.”
Uniquely Kensington: Iconic Sights and the Downsides
Golden Albert Memorial:
One sight that truly embodies the essence of Kensington is the golden Albert Memorial.
Its opulent gilded appearance sparkles magnificently in the sunlight.
It must be one of the most photographed landmarks in the world.
Catch: Loud Supercars:
Unfortunately, one downside of the area is the prevalence of loud supercars.
Some individuals view the neighborhood as a testing ground for their vehicles’ acceleration, leading to noise disturbances.
In just three words, I would describe Kensington as a vibrant and captivating neighborhood.
With its cultural offerings, serene green spaces, and bustling local establishments, it has become my cherished home.
The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, taking place from June 13 to August 20, is just one of the many highlights of Kensington’s vibrant cultural scene.
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