This is a post because it’s too long, ranty and self-indulgent to go on Facebook.
I am about to leave my current flat due to my flatmate wanting the space for her boyfriend and her to move into.
I went to do a second view at a place in Harlesden tonight. Nice enough, but outside in front of me two men ‘secretly’ (brazenly) exchanged drugs and masked their actions by having a loud conversation about how they hate ‘all these fucking Asian people’. Both were from an ethnic minority background themselves.
People walked the streets in a clear state of mental illness related alarm and anxiety. Smashed windows. No police.
It was basically like a bad lyric from a Rancid album.
I was asked for money three times, presumably because I have a posh coat and stupid hair. But I never really got why people in deprivation hotspots beg for money in the first place. I’m not saying it’s jobs central, but what’s the point in begging hundreds of people who also have no money for cash?
It all screams at the need for solutions far bigger than futile compassion for cases of individual poverty – for example decent support systems backed by the wider community (including the state), and policies which encourage both employment and decent pay.
Both of those are the opposite of what we have right now, and I have absolutely no qualms about saying that the situation in Harlesden is set to get even worse. It’s hard to believe that Sarah Teather is the MP for a place like this, being someone dedicated to the cause of taking it apart piece by piece.
It all makes Harlesden a difficult place to live, and I’m definitely not sure about it.
This is not some old bastion of working class solidarity. People here target each other rather than supporting each other. There is little respect for surroundings or the diversity that everyone here is so accustomed too. Thatcherism sent the working class up a blind alley of resentment, division and indifference, but most of it still walks in the same direction regardless. In the old days, the paternalist communitarians of the international labour movement would march against alcohol and gambling. I wonder how they would have felt about the payday loan sharks, ‘amusements’ arcades, ‘saunas’ (i.e. brothels), Chicken Cottage, or rather more obviously, crack and crystal meth.
There are of course some great people living there and working to improve Harlesden. I’ve met a few of them myself, through various stuff to do with both Labour and anti-cuts campaigns. But their work is undone day by day, and many of them see themselves as ‘non-political’ voluntary sector people, despite politics largely being to blame for the fragmentation here. And the less I say about the failure of ‘centrist’ ‘new Labour’ politics to offer any kind of salvation, the better off readers will be.
The room itself is tiny, though slightly bigger than one I viewed recently in Dollis Hill, near my place in Willesden Green. But the rent is at £450, which is £50 higher than my current rent for a decent sized room. This also does not include bills. This is rock bottom pricing for London – my salary won’t cope with anything higher.
So to add to the general social crisis which is so heavily interlinked with low pay and unemployment, the symbiotic twin demons of our time – at a personal level, I can also feel the dead hand of an enormous crisis of housing and landlord extortionism at a very personal level in my life.
I wonder if I will ever find a position where I feel financially comfortable, or stable in terms of my housing situation. The age of precarity is grinding me down, and the worst thing of all is that it kind of makes me wonder why I bothered going through the education system.
For the first time in a good couple of years, tonight I felt tired of London. They are hardly a nirvana, but still – I miss the suburbs, and I wonder if my whole life will look as difficult as my twenties.
London can be such a great place, but right now, it weighs my soul.