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Ida and Louise

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Money has overtaken and refurbished Morella Road, Wandsworth, just as it has overtaken many other ordinary streets in London. There is nothing exceptional about the architecture. The houses of Morella Road are bay-windowed Victorian terraces, fundamentally plain but with plasterwork and little spires added to give a French Gothic touch. London has a thousand brick-built streets like this and for most of the twentieth century they symbolized respectable middle-class living. Now such a house might cost close to £2 million—'now' being early 2007, when London house prices were rising on average at £7,000 to £11,000 a month. Audis, Mercedes and BMWs are parked in the street and the front doors are painted in the kinds of shades that suggest the householder has made a prolonged study of the colour charts. Among this evidence of wealth and fashion, it isn't easy to imagine how things once were: how the woodwork would have been sober dark green or black, how brokers' clerks and civil servants in bowler hats would have walked down the path each morning towards the railway station or the tram stop and come home again to plates of boiled root vegetables and cheap cuts of meat. An era of monochrome virtues: plain food, careful accounting, social deference, suppressed emotions, good manners—when nobody wanted to excite the interest of their neighbours, when it was best not to be extraordinary.

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