South of the river: the area simultaneously patronised and fetishised by those North London dwellers who, from the well-educated podium of up their own arse, view areas such as that far flung world of Lewisham (zone three and less than ten minutes from London Bridge, if anyone cares) as akin to a land where the women are clad in blood-lipsticked snarls and animal skin, while the men strut and stab in equal measure (sometimes at the same time).
Firstly, you’re thinking of Essex with that description. Secondly, perhaps you’d be able to actually visit the damn area and realize that it’s really not all that bad (and actually, knocks the socks off the North in many ways – culture, community, art) if it weren’t for the fact that the revamp of London’s transport is fucking us over in a way that hasn’t happened since the damn council stole Deptford’s anchor.
“Come to Lewisham!” the property market says, “come to Deptford! to New Cross! You’re minutes from London Bridge and you don’t even have to step foot in the area you live in!” This is no exaggeration. All across the South East, new complexes of self-contained hellholes are being set up – you want a swim? Nip down to the intensely chlorinated, fluorescent pit in the basement! You want a drink? There’s a bar on site! Never mind Ravensbourne River, complete with ducks and swamped in wildlife – never mind Deptford Creek, with the polyamorous trio of swans that come out in summer! Never mind the countless dive bars, family pubs, art-student drinking holes – never mind all of that! You’re right next to the station, and all you could ever need to maintain the position of your head firmly up your brutally waxed anus is right here in this hideously reflective complex we’ve put up as an eyesore and insult to the poverty stricken area you’ve demolished further by hoicking up property values and driving out the people who made the area an artistic, creative hub in the first place!
Aren’t you proud? Aren’t you happy? Can you SENSE MY TONE?
Some of these smog-kissing buildings stretching with disconcertingly lithe reach (yoga classes at 6pm on Mondays in the gym located handily in the basement, naturally) far over the heads and wallets of the original citizens of these poverty rife areas – the flats contained therein aren’t actually all that expensive, if you’re on the dole. There are some with sections that are still technically owned by the council, and these bourgeois-despised abodes lurk within the same four walls as those occupied by the City worker, posh-nob rabble – the difference being use of the facilities in the building, and a different entrance/exit for the respective classes within the complex itself.
Heaven forbid the two different species should cross paths! Wouldn’t it just ruin the atmosphere of their hip sanctuary; so carefully designed to blot out the raw, environmental material of the area so greedily raped for the privilege of delivering, say, the party-piece of that whispered story about the ‘stabbing that happened just down the road last week’. Ho ho! Fill up the champers, will you? Let’s put it on the expense claims. You there! Pay for our bubbly alcoholism while we verbally bitch-slap you with our privilege!
A side-effect of this atrocious new approach to gentrifying (ahem, I think they mean ‘pimping out’ without the permission of the metaphorical hookers) the area, is the focus on ‘improving’ travel in the South-East. This basically means that the Overground – a system that has worked well since installation and serves Croydon/Clapham/Crystal Palace to Islington – is down every weekend, because the only reason to keep it running smoothly is to enable commuters to get in and out of work with no hassle or potential overload of South-East air exposure. Never mind the fact it’s the only system that many South-East London dwellers really have to reliably get in and out of Central London or the outskirts.
The most recent set of reconstructions on London Bridge, the other common ‘reliable’ link to and from the South East, come in union with the upheaval of the Overground, and once again take place pretty much purely at weekends. Take the tube, you say? The ground of the South East is chalk. Chalk which would be better suited to scrawling dicks on the walls of the bastard stations that are more often than not out of action. Chalk that you would be well advised to smear over your hands to cling like a deranged Spider Man to the walls of the Underground tunnels, as that would probably get you there quicker than waiting for the fucking Bakerloo at rush hour. But that’s irrelevant. Because down here, there are no tubes. It’s Overground, train, or a painstaking haul up Old Kent Road that has you tearing your hair out before you’re halfway up it on a weekend. All we have is the Overground. You bastards have no idea.
Now. Let’s wrap this up. I call to you, my fellow South-East London citizens:
Let’s swarm the tracks at rush hour!
Let’s adorn the faceless, snooty blocks of commuters with street art!
Let’s drop the stolen anchor on the walkway circumventing the high street, forcing them to take the two minutes extra to walk THROUGH the district they’re destroying!
Let’s get Crazy Eyes on Deptford High Street who gets in your face and spits that he “only wants thirty pence” every day, all day to follow THEM to their platform!
Let’s… oh, hell.
I forgot. We’re voiceless. We’re background noise. We’re being forced out, and if we were to string our wallets on thread and have a conker battle, they’d knock us into the ground. After all, isn’t that what matters? It isn’t you that counts. It’s what you can offer – and this migration of gentrification insidiously replacing the sweet smell of green smoke with the crisp stench of green notes: they have us pussy-whipped in a way that hasn’t been seen since… oh, yeah. The theft of the Deptford anchor. Have I mentioned that? Just have a fucking Google.