Coffee with Magda on Tottenham Court Road

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January 10th 2010
Published: January 13th 2012
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“If I get caught then I’ll go home”. I have stopped in a small coffee shop off the Tottenham Court Road in central London. Magda is the first example of this part of London’s modern and multi-cultural identity I meet today. She’s Albanian and starts by telling me she isn’t working, but helping a friend; after a little while and with a few cheeky smiles she decides to trust me and tells me she is working illegally, living in central London, making a good living and sending money home to Tirana.

She is philosophical and says that if she gets noticed and caught, it’s fine; she will take her pounds and go home richer than when she arrived. “So, why Tottenham Court Road?” I ask. “No one is same here” She quips with a smile. “no one sees me.”

Five minutes later I get it. I’m two hundred yards down the road and am eating Dahl in the ultimate middle-class yummy-mummy eatery; ‘Planet Organic’. I eat surrounded by babies drinking three times purified, direct from the moon, goat’s milk. Their mothers discuss yoga and kitchen designers. “Why do you like Tottenham Court Road?” I ask Sophie, whose two year old has just smeared broccoli all over his face. “It feels like real modern London, Londoners live here.” she replies, enjoying her foreign food from the safety of her very English restaurant.

Tottenham Court Road is about as culturally diverse as it gets. There is a large Sikh community, a strong presence of West Africa, and a definite assertion of Eastern Europe to name but a few. It is the people of this street that inject the colour into an otherwise shabby grey cityscape. If Noah ever needs to rescue humanity from another flood and needs one of every people’s of the earth, he could do far worse than drag a trawling net along the Tottenham Court Road on his way to save the animals!

This is the home of modern Londoners. The question is however, do the people with the money and no need to work see and hear the people who have no money and yet do all the work? Based on my two person survey it would seem that they do. One thing is for sure – without them all, this part of London wouldn’t be nearly as colourful and interesting as it is.


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