Toby Young Says High Street is "Awful"

But Churchfield Road is "Marylebone High Street of Acton"

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Toby signing copies of his latest book


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The "doyen of loser lit" as he is called on the jacket of his most recent book The Sound of No Hands Clapping, has said that despite the fact that he lives in Acton and drives a people carrier, he has never been happier in his life.

I had lunch with Toby to celebrate his arrival in 'the cesspool of West London' as he dubbed Acton in The Spectator last September, thereby endearing himself to his neighbours before he had even moved in. We naturally had to go to Vanilla for lunch as he had thought it closed down during one visit to his new neighbourhood, because, he assumed, there "aren’t enough middle-class people in the area to sustain a single decent coffee shop." However, at least there's one more now, so things are looking up.

In the coffee shop, we enjoyed our plates of salad followed by cheesecake. Toby seemed very keen to hear about any signs of gentrification in Acton, but I fear I may have been a severe disappointment to him on that front. Toby has obviously wasted no time in getting to know the area for himself.

"Acton is less scary than I'd imagined. It's certainly a lot less scary than Shepherd's Bush." Toby told me. This is good. Perhaps he's changed his mind since he wrote in a recent column that his children would undoubtedly be learning life-skills such as "relieving people of their wallets at knifepoint".

He sees the potential in Churchfield Road. "It's really nice and could become.....the Marylebone High Street of Acton." Certainly a pleasant thought.

However, the High Street was in for a less than warm review: "The High Street is Awful. It lowers the tone of the area. I would expect to find a more impressive array of shops in downtown Gdansk. There's something of the failed state about the High Street."

However, Toby did admit that he had managed to find one useful shop on the High Street: "Menos Lighting Shop is very useful. You can get things there which are hard to find elsewhere."

The Oaks Shopping Centre came in for particular criticism, possibly because he had been banned from going in there with his bicycle - a neat foldaway one. "The Oaks is a black hole. Even Kerry Katona would give the Oaks a wide berth. It's full of shops I've never heard of somewhere below Iceland and Budgens in the retail substrata.."

Hopefully, Kerry Katona wasn't listening.

Toby's first book: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, has been made into a film to be released on October 3rd. Toby will be played by Simon Pegg. Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges and Gillian Anderson also star. His second book, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, is an entertaining mix of how he tried and failed to write a screenplay and succeeded in starting a family. Toby describes the birth of his first child and comes across as much less annoying than in his US-based first book. I even found myself warming to him at times. His wife comes over as eminently sensible and long-suffering.

Let's hope he finds more in Acton to write about over the next few months to keep us all entertained while we wait for the Council to unveil their masterplan.

March 20th 2008