Yesterday, I once again exploited the benefits of flexible working hours and working from home, and headed out at lunch to explore my new home-town, Leamington Spa. I walked all the way down the Parade to reach the ‘grittier’ side of the town on ‘the other side of the railway line’, ooer. Leamington is often described as being a town of two halves. The genteel, upper-middle-class area north of the railway (although such a class description probably no longer exists following the newly published criteria) and the more rough and ready area to the south. It’s true that there’s a tangible shift in the surroundings. Towards the railway line, there’s an increase in greasy-looking fast-food joints and faded, independent utilitarian shops, and the smart eateries, cafes and clothes shop chains dwindle. But the area has a life of its own; an intrigue and an eclectic mix of cultures and approaches to life that is lacking in the very pleasant but ultimately more bland central area.
The side streets north of the railway have their own charm, with countless vintage clothes boutiques, organic bakeries and Euro-style cafes, but it’s all rather expensive and, in a way, hugely predictable in its self-conscious quirkiness. Don’t get me wrong, I am a complete sucker for such things, but travelling to ‘the other side’ made me realise there’s a part of me not satisfied by such obvious delights – call it my more subversive side, or the side that likes to keep it real.
Anyway, I enjoyed absorbing the subtlely different atmosphere. Nestled amongst the ironmongers, Indian sweet shops (mmmm, massive guilty pleasure) and Chinese supermarkets I came across a fantastic French Patisserie, its elegant sophistication standing out like a disdainful thumb, rather like a chic Parisian would at a car boot sale. I ordered an almond and raspberry croissant and (de-caff) cappucino – the pastry was unbelievably heavenly, and impregnated with an ignorance-is-bliss amount of butter.
I like to think that I then fully negated the sugar and lard intake by a visit to the highly virtuous Gaia shop nearby, Leamington’s only independent health food shop as far as I am aware. It is run as a working cooperative, and the sprightly, elfin man in there was so full of the joys of spring and sustainability that I came away feeling bouyed by the pleasure that the season’s first spring cabbage can bring to certain folk, not to mention massively more educated about the process and importance of sprouting.
So, a trip south did me the world of good, and opened up my eyes to yet more facets of this lovely little town. I am almost starting to feel tiny little roots beginning to sprout from my feet, rather like those of a spring cabbage into a well-tilled soil. They are still very wispy and fragile though; a nomadic flightiness still runs strong through this particular allegorical cabbage, and it might transpire that the embryonic sprouting roots just end up making my feet feel itchier… 😉