We include an extract from Jonathan Raban’s book Soft City. Raban’s most recent novel is Surveillance (2006). He lives in Seattle with his daughter. He wrote Soft City (1974) while living in Earl’s Court, from which Notting Hill was a nearby but distinctly foreign land. He lived in North Kensington from 1980 to 1985. The following extracts are taken from ‘The Magical City’ chapter of Soft City.