words: Jack Cole
Here’s a story: I chatted to a Dutch man recently…
We got kinda friendly and he admitted rather sheepishly that on first moving to Brixton he thought the word ‘skunk’ was the local vernacular for ‘hello’. This must have led to some pretty interesting exchanges. In fact, thinking about it, I am surprised he’s still alive.
But I can’t blame the guy. Brixton has its own language and customs, idiosyncrasies and Rastafarian foibles, subtle nuances infused with an ethnic eclecticism of strict etiquette and steel drum batty beats. And I don’t just mean literally (although I have taken to riding the P5 for a crash course in Patois: ‘Every poppy show have them own a gang‘) but on a deeper level of post-code communion.
You’re probably thinking I sound like the preacher with the megaphone who stands outside Brixton Tube every morning, ‘ When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom ‘, translated as, ‘I have no pride and that is why I don’t have a job’. But actually I’m just having a moment’s appreciation for my area.
Brixton’s ascent to culture capital – and that’s basically what it is – can be attributed to its skill at moving with the times and all the while remaining true to its roots. While it is, and always will be, a weed frenzied part of S.London, it’s also a hugely eclectic part of the city where even the Prosecco wielding communities synonymous with Angel and the like, are moving to. And then there’s a big sense of COMMUNITY.
You see, we close rank when exposed to the snobbery, fear and prejudice which surrounds our fair town. Those indiscreet flinches when we mention we live on Coldharbour Lane (formerly known as murder mile) or flashes of sweat-drenched fear when we invite a friend for late night supper in the heart of the ‘maaaaaarkeeeet’. We are only too ready to jump to dear old Brixton’s defence and list what seem like a thousand rebukes.
The Ritzy. The Lido. Brockwell Park. Franco Manca. Honest Burger. Elephant. Kaosan with their lovely ladyboy.
(She doesn’t fool anyone, but is all the more charming for it.) The Brixton Bookmongers, where even the most illiterate soul could while away years, if only by stroking the dog. And need I remind you that Brixton straddles the busiest bus route in London? The ultra-fast Victoria line with an overground thrown in for good measure. Plus, the village is a food-lover’s wet-dream (with multiple nocturnal ejaculations) and don’t even get me started on rocking down to Electric Avenue.
Of course, I have a few words of warning – never linger outside KFC for any longer than you have to; buy popcorn from the arcade at your peril and don’t ask to have your picture taken with the saxophonist busker (he is terribly shy) (why would you?).
There are more crack dens than you could shake P.Docherty’s cock at. The Weatherspoons has more in common with A & E than any normal pub and the wino affectionately nicknamed ‘The General’ has been known to sit outside Brixtonians’ flats until shooed away.
But I digress. Brixton is a melting pot of bright colours and even brighter opinions. It is a heady mix which shouldn’t work but somehow does, from Ghana to Lidl, Jamaica to JD Sports.
So next time you are in Brixton and someone mutters ‘skunk’ at you, don’t be afraid, it is just a local trying to say ‘hey’.
Unless you do actually smell like a skunk. Think about it.
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