The things people say in Maida Vale, or what’s your name?


Maida Vale W2 is name of a neighborhood and a street. Ask a local where the street is and they’ll tell you it’s the next bit of the Edgware Road about 1/4 mile north from where the Marylebone Road flyover goes across the top. On the east side of the street begins the boulevards of the mind boggling, opulent district of St. John’s Wood. To the west side of the street, rows of large, terraced houses are home to more bedsit and one bedroom flats in a single neighborhood, second only (IMO) to the Earls Court district of London.

If I had owned an iPhone back in my London Village days in the mid-1970’s, I would have bookmarked Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale as a “always remember” destination on my GPS app. If all else failed on a Saturday night, drive slowly along Elgin Avenue, and listen for the LV party.

The top flat of the Elgin Avenue address was messy and dinghy, but always crowded. One young woman was a regular fixture at the W2 parties. She always said yes to a dance, then sulked and moped around on the dance floor.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” I ask.
“It’s Maude.”
“I can’t hear. The music is very loud.”
“I said it’s Maude. Do you have a cigarette?” Ad hoc sign language conveys her need.
“Sorry, don’t smoke.”
“Gotta have one.” She walks away to locate a ciggie.

Maude’s chaperone, aka roommate, has one for her. I talk with her buddy.

“Is Maude OK?”
“Oh yeah, she’s just like that. By the way, her name isn’t Maude.”
“She said it was.”
“It’s just what she’s calling herself for now. She says the name sounds depressing, so it fits her mood. She’ll call herself something else next week.”

Here was a lifestyle nuance I had not encountered before. Think on it: women and men have wardrobes of clothes and shoes to match particular occasions. So why not a name to match the moment or the mood? Maude was so far ahead of her time. How many of you have multiple Internet IDs with entirely different email addresses and different profile settings? Own up? Just like the vacuous, anonymous world of today’s cyberspace, (the net, online, the cloud or whatever you want to call it,) Maude had figured out that the whirlpool of partying with countless bump and run rendezvous didn’t require a permanent name or avatar. Avant-garde insight. Maude, however, did seem to be one of her popular ID’s. Same flat, different Saturday night, I could ask the host if Maude was here and he would know of whom I was enquiring.

To repeat myself: if all else failed on a Saturday night, drive slowly along Elgin Avenue, and listen for the LV party. A fact that wasn’t lost on the neighbors either. The police from Paddington Green station also had the flat address on their permanent list. Trundling up the all those stairs to ask us to turn the music down a bit was hot work. It was only good manners to offer our local boys in blue a drink.

“Oh, thanks.” And they would stay for a while and have a not-strictly on duty beverage. I’m sure they are all retired by now so no big deal. The best of chaps in the spirit of W2.

Keith Howard
Comments are welcome below.

If you were in the LV circle in the 1970’s, I would love to hear your memories and post them for others to enjoy.


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