All that talk of the Catskills being the new Williamsburg made me a) want to move to N Dakota and b) reminded me of my own folly claiming Stroud was the new Notting Hill. This in London's Evening Standard in 2000... I've vowed never to call anything the new anything again, but if you want to read my folly...
FORGET Kensal Rise, Hoxton or even Shepherd's Bush. For the new Notting Hill you need to go further west to Stroud and the Slad Valley.
Here in the industrial end of the Cotswolds you won't find Tom's or Woody's or the Pharmacy - though Stroud does have Damien Hirst. He recently moved his studio here. A great big, white, pristine, minimal shed, it looks more like a gallery (perhaps Jay Jopling's unannounced outpost) than a work space, what with its poured cement floors and art which includes a precariously balanced crashed car with a mechanical masturbating hand inside.
Once home to England's wool industry - the material for the Pope's robes was made here - Stroud now houses the Woolpack.
Formerly writer Laurie Lee's local, it was bought last year by artist and Hirst pal Dan Chadwick. (His work hangs in the recently opened Westbourne Hotel in the old Notting Hill, not to mention the Groucho and among the collections of many Fortune 500 companies). Chadwick, the son of sculptor Lynn Chadwick, grew up nearby and wanted to do something to preserve the community.
He was a friend of Lee's widow and daughter, so when the Woolpack came up for sale he had to buy it to make sure it wasn't turned into a house - the fate of many other pubs nearby.
Another family friend of Chadwick's, Ben Wordsworth, cofounder and front man at Notting Hill's 192, now helps out behind the Woolpack bar, while celebrity chef pals are lending a hand in the kitchen - Marco Pierre White, Alastair Little, Fergus Henderson, even the West- bourne's founder, Orlando Campbell are all coming to cook on the weekends, although their schedules are erratic.
Even if you come on a day when they don't appear, the Wool-pack offers a fine shepherd's pie.
Actually pie in any form - Cornish pasty, vegetable pasty and pork pie - all feature prominently on the menu.
So do locally made winter, autumn and summer puddings, but no spring. "Not yet, at least," Chadwick says.
Soon there will even be er, ahem conker championships.
Despite the quaint charms, the region could well be the next Silicon Valley.
Well, almost. The other day Iris Palmer and her mother Catherine Tennant were here celebrating the launch of Tennant's astrology website. Clearly the internet has come to the Cotswolds too.
Palmer, who left her Notting Hill flat for Stroud, was laughing about the nabe's newfound popularity. (Even Isabella Blow and her husband have a home here). When an editor from Tatler called to ask if it was all true, Iris stalled her. The woman pressed for some local gossip, and the former model revealed the first bit of news that came to mind. "Well," Palmer giggles, "Carl kicked a cock at the pub." The editor's ears pricked up - "Karl who?"
"She was waiting for me to say Lagerfeld," Iris says. But she answered: "Just Carl, I don't know his surname." The editor slammed down the phone.
When Chadwick is asked about the region's popularity, he insists: "It's none of that Disney stuff. It's rough. It's real, real working people. The Cotswolds isn't just about old ladies and tea rooms "
Just a note here -- Dan's sentiment: exactly what I might have once said about the Catskills too....