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My Hampstead Garden Suburb: Former Jewish Chronicle editor Ned Temko on ‘Stalinist Suburb authorities’

Ned Temko. Ned Temko.

Saturday, August 3, 2013
11:00 AM

Ned Temko, 60, was editor of The Jewish Chronicle for 15 years and stepped down in 2005. Before that he worked as foreign correspondent for Christian Science Monitor. The father-of-one has lived in Hampstead Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb, with his wife Astra for 20 years.

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What brought you to Hampstead Garden Suburb?

Geographical progression. When we moved to Britain – with my wife pregnant, and the US newspaper for whom I worked as a foreign correspondent gracefully footing our housing costs – we lived for a year or so in a flat just off Sloane Square. A wonderful area in its own way, but not great for raising an infant. Not ideal, it must be said, for grown-ups either. So we made our way northwards.

You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to?

Pray for sunshine, light up a cigar, take out a favourite novel I haven’t read for years, and remind myself of the power of truly great writing.

What makes the Suburb a special place to live?

It’s part of London but feels like living in the country. No doubt, exactly as Henrietta Barnett would have had it. Also, it’s less intellectually self-important than Hampstead.

Is there anything about the Suburb which you would like to see changed or improved?

The slightly Stalinist zeal with which some of the Suburb powers-that-be, not to mention some of the residents, look upon the horror of even the slightest, even sometimes the invisible, alteration of local properties. All this while sometimes missing the bigger “conservation area” picture, such as the fact that at least some roads seem to have become unofficial commuter parking lots due to the vagaries of residents’ parking restrictions.

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you?

The obvious answer is Dustin Hoffman since, even without recourse to method acting, he should be able to do a slightly ageing, vertically challenged Jewish guy to perfection. But Hugh Grant, I think… I’d love to see him try to do a slightly ageing, vertically challenged Jewish guy to perfection.

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

I’m tempted to say George W. Bush, simply to wind up my left-wing friends. And I must say that, while I’d never vote for him, I found him not only to be able to read and write, but enormously articulate and reflective. But it has to be two figures from my time in South Africa. First, Nelson Mandela. I know it will sound clichéd, but merely to have spent an hour speaking with him on the afternoon after his release was to feel in the presence of greatness. The other was the late South African MP Helen Suzman: feisty, brave, funny, and absolutely determined to fight the injustice and cruelties of apartheid from within.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

Oh my God, I forgot to take out the recycling!

Ned Temko was in conversation with Tim Lamden.

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