Tag Archives: London

London Drawings

Given my recent obsession with drawing – sometimes well and sometimes badly – I thought I’d share my latest effort here. A series of three pictures all inspired by the city. Not, I’m sad to say, in a particularly good way but given the way it’s being forced, and paid, to change it’s hard to find any optimism towards these streets.

Anyway, there was something in there about a feeling of rejection from the city I’ve always called home that I wanted to get out and until I find a way to write about it here’s the outlet I have…

 

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When We Loved

You cornered me with love
a contortion into hate
between what you said
and what you did
who you claimed
and who you were
a chaotic contradiction
out of which I ended up believing
that to control
was to care
and to fear
was to feel

You wielded over me all the power I longed for
through force you shaped my self
while I wished to have a different form
but incapable I gave myself over to you
to make me what I thought was better
but which turned out to be just you,
your image,
your dream
and your ideal
broken imitations
of who I used to be
and corrupted lies
of who I should be

In the end I broke our love
or so you said
yanking at frayed ropes which had bound me
trying to drag me back into your world
as I sought out a new one

I’d like to say the power is mine now,
that my hands took over
but I know that’s not true
over every move I make
lingers your so called love
eager to recount
another cruel fable
of who I used to be
and who I should be

Time stands at my side though
the time I need to forget
and regrow
beyond the chaotic contradiction
of your love

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Grenfell Tower

On Grenfell Tower – Don’t think there’s much to be said about the fire, not by me anyway. My thoughts are with those who’ve lost their homes, friends and families and I hope that more have survived than are expected to, bad as it looks now.

As for what’s to come I hope that they get some real justice. Not just as far as the causes of the fire go but in getting their homes back too. I don’t think it takes too much experience of London housing, or cynicism, to suspect what’s going to happen. The immediate temporary accommodation they’ll be offered won’t be good, because with most councils it isn’t and there’s always the chance that they’ll have to fight to get it and even when they’re in it might end up being isolated from work/friends/family and all the other necessities and supports that you’d imagine people need even more in the wake of something like this. Doubtful that they’ll get the psychological support they need in the wake of this either, unless it comes from the/a community which organises to provide it. The resources for the state to do it haven’t been there in a long time, even without horrific shit like this happening.

Longer term they’ll be shifted around London (and hopefully just London) to make use of inadequate council housing stock which even the boroughs which will take them in won’t really be able to spare. With luck it’ll be appropriate at least, but I wouldn’t say that’s guaranteed either, families might end up in places which are too small, the elderly, people with disabilities, parents worried about getting their kids to school might all find themselves cut off from established support or workable ways to keep life as normal as it can be.

The rebuilding work, when it starts, will almost certainly take place once the media glare has faded a bit. It’ll probably take place with either a private or ‘partner’ developer who’ll spend more on PR than on consultation with residents. The new build will focus on profit and telling the right lies about ‘social’ or ‘affordable’ housing – both of which are generally a bad joke in this city.

Going on the usual routine and unless something drastic changes the people who have to argue for their right to move back, for their community to exist and for decent housing will be the people who’ve suffered the most. Hopefully with support from the rest of us, but probably not with much, if any, from central government or the media. Maybe a few paragraphs in three years time about long term campaigners amongst the residents wondering where all the promises went.

Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about some/all of that but, as things stand, I’m not optimistic unless some radical change comes. The only way that’ll happen is if the concern and anger a lot of people are showing now lasts. As the story fades there’ll be plenty of people happy to let it go, relying on the fact that everyone else will forget enough for nothing to be done. Things’ll be buried in long investigations and reports which don’t lead to any action and which, if they do, won’t do enough, soon enough to help those who’ve lost.

Anyway, hopefully I’m just being a miserable bastard, watching the coverage and residents on TV hasn’t helped. Hopefully serious steps will be taken immediately. Central funding for decent temporary accommodation, active use of all the empty housing stock in the borough (1,000+ places, apparently) and a proper new build with absolutely guaranteed right to return for Grenfell residents and real consultation.

Update 19/10/2017:

Added without comment…

Twenty Suicide Attempts Since Fire (BBC)

Grenfell Tower Executive Still On Full Pay

Police block key information…

Failed Housing Promises

 

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The Rhythm of Life

“We can’t stop here, this is Cat country!”

It wasn’t the ideal line to hear from a bus driver, especially as he overshot my stop and picked up speed on an increasingly mad dash through Catford. I tightened my grip on the seat in ahead of me, getting a wary look from the man in front as he watched my knuckles turn white. Why he wasn’t panicking I don’t know, especially as a booming ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAW!’ rang out over the speakers on the top deck. Usual behaviour for London bus drivers perhaps? It seemed unlikely, they never did that sort of thing back home, not as far as I can remember. But then back home I never got the bus, so perhaps this was the norm in all big cities and my fear just marked me out as a newcomer.

I ducked down as the bus screamed through traffic lights, not much of a defense against the possibility of a t-boning truck, which we narrowly avoided to the maniacal laughter of the driver downstairs. Still nobody seemed bothered, in fact a mother and daughter were even playing a game of ‘I Spy’ behind me. A routine past time made worse by the little girl’s loud and excited guess for ‘s’ – ‘sudden death’ she shrieked as the truck that had narrowly missed us spun out of control and flipped over in a spray of sparks. We’d missed the two stops after mine too.

“Do you have a valid Oyster card? Well, do you?”

The driver’s voice had suddenly grown sad, a good thing I reckoned as it coincided with the bus slowing down to a more sedate rampage down the road towards Lewisham. It was ok, I figured, I could walk home if I had to, plus my Oyster was valid, which had to be a good sign, right?

It was also irrelevant, apparently, as the now crawling bus continued to avoid every stop it passed. My grip had loosened on the seat in front, the wary looking man visibly relaxing as my minor physical invasion at the periphery of his vision went into retreat. I could, I reckoned, jump off the bus now, hit the emergency button downstairs and make a running landing, or at least a stumbling and non-fatal roll along the pavement. That’d be sensible, that’d be sane, given the circumstances, I should escape before the maniac in charge perked up and decided to start racing with death again. I didn’t move though, in fact if anything I relaxed into my seat, on the edge of a panic attack on the inside but somehow anchored by the gentle swaying of the bus. Besides, everyone else still seemed completely calm, they must have known something I didn’t and it would have been rude to start acting all crazy and jumping out of moving vehicles. I didn’t want to be rude, and the bus had to stop eventually, right?

“This is the 185, terminating at termination. Please remember to take your bags with you and, for the love of God, don’t put your feet on the seats…”

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Londonistan

When they tore down the Catford Cat it should have been a clue on the direction things were heading in. A ‘pagan effigy’ they called it and that was why they got away with it. Everyone knew it was part of some dark magic, they just didn’t talk about it and behind the collective silence people really were tired of the disappearances, the sacrifices and the strange meows in the night. Everyone except for the people of Catford, of course, and they always were barbarians.

So, we all let it go when they threw chains around the cat and dragged it off to be melted down. Some of us even lined the road to cheer, not me though, even then, though I didn’t think enough to see it, I had the nasty feeling that things were going the wrong way. Not to say I’m smart, anything but, if I were I’d have done something to stop them before it went any further. Still though, I knew something was sitting wrong in the city and they were at the heart of it, slowly taking over and changing everything.

Next – and I don’t mean to get poetic here – they came for the Elephant & Castle. It was ‘morally unacceptable’ they said. I saw one of them talking about it, just before they started the purge, a wild eyed man on a plinth in Trafalgar Square denouncing the abominations, hedonism and sins of the natives of Elephant. Shameful, he declared, that such a iniquitous mob should be allowed to roam the streets bringing disgrace to us all. No one came out to cheer that moment, it was all grim faces and nervous looks, depending on who was doing the listening. I was at the back of the crowd, with the idle observers, for a while at least. We were the first to drift away though as the fanatics rant spun itself into a spit spraying frenzy to the delight of his invited audience. There was an ugly mood and not one anyone sane wanted to stay and see, so we left them to it, comforted to at least know it wasn’t us they were after. I heard what they did to the Elephant & Castle, though I never saw it myself, few who did left to tell the tale and to this day I don’t even get the bus through there – I don’t even want to see the streets were that shit happened. Not that I’d be allowed to of course, no free movement these days, you go where they tell you to and you keep your mouth shut about it.

After that it all came in a flurry of atrocities. Then we had to care, comfortable ignorance was no longer an option and we were blown away that all we’d missed with our eyes half closed. There were so many of them, so many that we weren’t even sure whose city it was anymore. Sure, if you stayed at home, or went to the shops, or sat in your local it seemed like everyone was same, that everyone was one of us but the proof was in their actions – they were there, somehow operating in the city without us ever noticing. A whole parallel world that had grown up in the city without ever touching on ours.

Whitechapel, Farringdon, Angel Islington, Tottenham, Peckham, Camberwell, Vauxhall, they all fell like vast concrete dominoes. There one day, working and sane and safe, gone the next to be replaced by something unrecognisable, something which, now we weren’t part of the staring crowd anymore, seemed disgusting and alien. All of the old certainties faded away, hacked apart by the new order that we were powerless to stop. The pubs changed, the takeaways changed, the shops changed. What had once been a local, comfortably decayed and unwelcomingly friendly was suddenly all horse brasses and real ale, old men calling themselves the ‘Colonel’ lining the bar in tweed jackets, never mentioning the Lee Enfield rifles they all carried as a matter of routine now that they’d taken over the streets. What used to be a Chicken Cottage or a Morley’s would, almost overnight, be turned into a traditional pie shop, or a tea house, lingering youths and famished commuters driven from their doorways at gunpoint for preferring a two piece meal to eel and cow’s eye pasties. That was how things should be, they told us, that’s how it was meant to be but I can tell you it’s never felt natural to me, not in London. Even my local corner shop wasn’t left untouched after they’d finished. I remember it now, as it was, as it should have been, a surly nod from the Sri Lankan who worked there, a pint of out of date milk and the local alchy ahead of me in the queue taking his time over the spare change taken to buy a can of K Cider. Halcyon days in the city. Now it’s all Union Jack bunting, rosy cheeked children buying penny sweets and friendly smiles from men in brown shop coats. Sickening, really, what they’ve done to the place.

I’m old now. My back’s bent and I’m tired. Certainly too tired to fight them. It’s all I can do to sidestep the Morris Dancers and cheery urchins on my way home. I remember, they used to say ‘If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life’ and fuck me but I’m exhausted with it. Some used to warn us too, back then, that we were being taken over. Muslims they said, hordes of them, Sharia law, public stonings – well, they weren’t all wrong, if only they’d known that the threat was coming from those Home County bastards instead. Still, too late to worry now, my city’s gone, they call it London Village now and I need to finish up here, it’s time for mandatory cricket on the green. Used to be a Primark y’know, backwards and barbaric they called it when they burnt it down…

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