Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Changing neighborhood

I'm sitting in a classic old pub, the Salisbury, on Green Lane in Herringay. It's Chris and Pat's neighborhood pub, but one they never frequented because of the rough clientele. I passed it every day when I was staying with them in 1999, and I often bemoaned the fact that I couldn't go there to relax with a beer by myself. A few years ago, however, the management renovated the place and renovated their regulars as well. Gone are the fisticuffs, replaced by peaceable patrons. It's really a beautiful old place, the kind of pub that modern saloons, like the Pump House in Fairbanks, try to emulate, with assortments of overstuffed couches, mahogany wainscoting and trim, and empire ceiling sculpting (though not tin).

Not only the pub has changed but the ethnic mix of the neighborhood. This was and still is a Middle Eastern area, the majority of residents and businesses and restaurants are some blend of Turkish, Bulgarian, Cyprian, Greek, and points East. Since Poland joined the EU, however, it is increasingly Polish. Polish language signs are appearing in the shops (which I can read), and I overheard people speaking Polish (which I understand) on the bus and on the street. I'm a little disappointed there's no Polish restaurant yet because I'd kill for a bowl of zurek or plate of bigos. I was able to buy a loaf of authentic Polish rye bread though, and that was soul food enough to sustain me.

When I was here in '99 there were a number of cheap phone shops, where people could rent phone time to call home. These are replaced by internet lounges. There's one across the street in which the modest floor space is divided up into small booths, like carrels in a library. The charge is only 50 pence (USD .85) per hour. Now, that's affordable. And the machines are new and it looks like they have media ports and maybe ethernet ports.

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