It's been over 18 months since I visited London. For someone who lived there for 19 years, that's a long time. Especially when you consider what London has been through in recent months - a Royal Wedding, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and, of course, the Olympics. And when I landed in my former home town, it immediately looked different. Like some of the people I would see during my visit, change was apparent.
Do you remember standing with your mother in the street as she chatted to her friend who, when you impatiently tugged at your mother's arm, would look at you and say,'Gosh, haven't you grown?!' I do it myself now and I am waiting for the smarty pants who will answer me back (as I fantasised about doing back then) 'Yes, well what did you expect? Time stands still for nobody'. This was the phrase that kept coming to me as I explored my dear old London town.
Except for a few years spent in SW19, I lived in North London but on this visit I stayed with my sister in Kennington and when I asked her to take me to her favourite coffee shop, she took me to Brixton, to Cold Harbour Lane. This wasn't what I was expecting. My last trip along Cold Harbour Lane was 15 years ago and it ended in disaster. Back then I wasn't brave enough to venture to these parts - I didn't need the ethnic experience of the little Caribbean, I was afraid of landing myself in a lawless and dangerous underworld. On one occasion, however, crossing London I drove along Cold Harbour Lane in my beloved Volkswagen Beetle (an original from 1972). It was a dark and cold winter night. Another car came out of a junction and collided with me, crumpling the Beetle like a tin can and leaving me stranded to wait for tow truck assistance. It was a long and lonely night and I was terrified of moving from my spot. How different it would have been today. Stranded now, I would head straight for Brixton Village.
The covered market hall that runs off Cold Harbour Lane offers an abundance of trendy independent coffee shops, bars and eateries, organic bakeries and the like. Dotted amongst these recent additions are the original market stalls selling the cheap and cheerful housewares, rolls of brightly coloured African cloth and Caribbean hairstylists. Until recently, it was run down and derelict with only 50% occupancy. Now, it is buzzing and thriving. There are many coffee spots to choose from but my sister already had a very special place in mind - Federation Coffee.
Brixton village might be a bit of a rabbit warren but Federation Coffee is light and airy. The coffee is roasted on the premises and there is a vast range of pastries and sandwiches. The tables are cheek by jowl but I am sure that I only noticed this because I have been away from London for a while - its Copenhagen that has the space (and not the other way around!). My morning coffee at Federation is right up there at the top of the list and it must be because I had the time to enjoy it with one of my favourite people, my sister.
Cost: single shot cappuccino costs £2.40
Coffee hygge factor: 4.5 out of 5
Find out more for when you next find yourself in Brixton at www.federationcoffee.com