Byline: DYLAN JONES
Forthepastsixmonths TonyBlairhasbeenmy neighbour, and if I'm brutally frank about it, I'm not sure I like it. Sincehe moved in, a few days after leaving Downing Street,theroadshavebeenfullofarmed police, there are sentries patrolling the adjacent squares, and the wholearea feels like some sort of luxury war zone. A sort of Bond Street Beirut.
Connaught Village is one of the hidden treasures of central London. Tucked awaybehind Marble Arch, between Edgware Road and Paddington Station, it offers notonly some of the most idiosyncratic shops in the city, but also the bestItalian restaurant in the postcode, Stuzzico, run by the unofficial mayor ofConnaught Village, Pino Guido.
The area is something of an idyll, but our serenity came to an abrupt end sixmonths ago when the Blairs finally moved into their house. If you haven't seenthe Blairs' Connaught Square Georgian townhouse for yourself-boughtthreeyearsagofora whopping [pounds sterling]3.65 million - and happen to be in the area, you can't miss it.
If the armed guards in their bullet-proof vests or the patrolling policemenaren't a giveaway, then you might be intrigued by the two dozen traffic conesthat line the street immediately outside. They haven't yet erectedabannerinfrontofthehouse- 'Security Risk: Ex-Prime Minister Lives Here!' should do it, I would havethought - but it wouldn't look out of place.
We live 150 yards away, two squares north, so are relatively shielded from allthis madness,butsomeoftheBlairs'immediate neighbours - and they include a film producerfriendofmineandhislovelyTV presenter wife, two DJs and a newspaper editor, as well as my GP - are sounhappy about the overblown security measures they'veactuallybecomequitevocal,and quite rude. 'Even though they moved in six months ago, Cherie has yet toknock on our door for a cup of sugar,' says one. 'But knowing how fond she isof a freebie, I'm sure it won't be long.' It won't have escaped Cherie and herhusband's notice that they are now only a short pilgrimage from the TyburnConvent, as well as being only a stone's throw from the best Lebanese takeawaysin Britain. In the recent TV drama The Trial Of Tony Blair, the actress playingCherie called the area Little Beirut, adding, 'Not a great place to live whenyour husband is hated by 250 million Arabs.' Blairisstilloneofthetopfive living targets for a terrorist attack, andhereadilyadmitsthatheis more at risk in London than he is in Baghdad. Thanks, Tone, appreciate it.
And not only is his house a target, last year he made the area in question evenbigger. TheBlairsboughtanearby mews house in Archery Close with the aim of connecting it to themainhomeafterMI5and Special Branch advised that it wouldprovideasaferentrance for them. …