London Turks

While looking for a new gaff to lay our hats we boxed and coxed with trunks in tow. Some of our time was spent with Liam’s folks in Edmonton, North London. The area has a strange familiarity, and not for the obvious reasons. As a world city, London is used to migration and transience. London is what it is because of it. Centuries of settlement and resettlement have reinvented and re-invigorated the city in an endless cycle of renewal. This constant shift in the cultural cityscape is not without its challenges but it is always enriching.

Forty years ago Edmonton was host to a thriving Irish community. Catholicism, the craic and the tricolour dominated the local scene. Forty years on, next generation Irish have moved up and out leaving a rump of the old who are slowly dying off. Nature abhors a vacuum; as the Irish up sticks to greener pastures, Turks fill the spaces in between. Of course, Turkish people are no strangers to London. The colonial connection to Cyprus established Turkish and Greek communities, now decades old. The partition of Aphrodite’s troubled isle following the 1974 Turkish invasion helped to bolster numbers on both sides of the Cypriot divide. Ironically, both communities live cheek-by-jowl in a way that is no longer possible on Cyprus itself. They don’t exactly mix but neither do they growl at each other from opposite sides of a thin blue line. When I lived in Walthamstow, my local convenience store was run by Turks and my greying hair was clipped by the Greek barber next door. I wisely avoided the Cypriot question while Stavros wielded a cut-throat razor.

Back in Edmonton, the ethnic influx is of a different kind. Recent immigrants tend to hail from Turkey itself rather than Cyprus. This has introduced a more traditional feel to the area. Grubby old pubs that were dying on their feet have been turned into colourful restaurants and locked-up shops have been given a new lease of life as tea houses. There’s even a branch of Doğtaş – a well-known (and horribly gaudy) Turkish home furnishings chain – in the local shopping centre. It’s all brought a new vibrancy to the vicinity. Unfortunately, as well as a fresh new Anatolian look, the Turks have also imported their truly terrible driving habits. Lollipop ladies leap for their lives.

8 thoughts on “London Turks

  1. Oh my! Our little corner of Stoke Newington was also a Greek/Turkish enclave (mostly the latter). There was a small club over the road from us. At weekends it used to disgorge wedding guests etc wearing the most extraordinarily flashy clothes I have ever seen. We used to peer out of our windows saying, “Ooh, do look at this purple satin jacket!” Exotic music poured out onto the street and we used to imagine a wild orgy of belly-dancing going on in there… 🙂

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  2. J and I had our first lesson in Turkish food culture when we were invited to dinner by a Turkish family from that area – the lesson? That table groaning under the weight of mezes is only the beginning!
    By the way, Turkey did not invade Cyprus, it was the only signatory to the treaty to stand by its obligations after Nicos ‘The Butcher’ Samson staged a coup against Makarios and offered Turks a choice between leaving or being killed.

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