The threatened local café tells a bigger story of lost values
Once upon a time, our common lands were places where commoners – that’s you and me – were at liberty to mow hay, graze livestock and make free. Eventually, with the industrial revolution, many hated acts of enclosure curtailed the pleasures of these open spaces and commoners’ lives suffered.
Merrie England is long gone, but the ancient fight on behalf of community values goes on. As we report today, one of the sweetest satisfactions of a walk on Hampstead Heath – taking tea in the Parliament Hill Cafe – faces a pointless termination.
Unless common sense prevails, this cafe’s contract is about to be snatched from the D’Auria family, who have run it for several generations, and given to Benugo, a high-end coffee-shop chain with similar designs on outlets in Golders Green Park and Highgate Wood, which are also in the gift of the City of London Corporation.
It is hardly an exaggeration to observe that, writ small, brand tyranny, or the creeping Benugification of Britain – and of communities across the country – is the enclosure movement of our times. A cretinous brand-speak uttered by faceless stooges raised on corporate platitudes, in which “cost-effective” services and “customer feed-back” are cited as “desirable objectives”, now threatens to eliminate a local secret in the free and glorious variety of metropolitan life.
For what? For something that money can’t buy and brand managers will never understand: a family business offering a fabulous view of a great city on the way down from the top of a famous hill. Yes, and a bowl of pasta or a cup of coffee.
It is impossible to reason the need for such things, and change is the lifeblood of city life. “Nothing lasts for ever,” says the philosophical owner of the Parliament Hill Cafe, and he is of course right. But this sorry tale of wilful vandalism by the City of London Corporation amounts to a nasty tear in the fabric of the community. It should be mended.
Source: The Observer