When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.
Or bored of getting paid, paying rent, paying bills and being poor again.
I’m a reluctant member of so-called ‘generation boomerang.’ I’m writing this aged 26, in the bedroom that I grew up in — the place I studied for my GCSEs and where I spent countless hours with a tub of gel and a toothbrush perfecting the kiss-curls and slick across my forehead. In January I threw out tons of my possessions and redecorated so my environment didn’t trick me in to thinking I was a complete failure who had done nothing progressive in the last decade. I currently live in Barking, East London/ Essex with my parents. You don’t come to Barking unless you live here or know someone who does, there’s just no need to otherwise. For a ‘non-place’ it is pretty vibrant (take the word ‘vibrant’ as you will here innit…
The borough feels like Dalston circa 2005, pre-Alibi and Voodoo Rays — around the time when you took a quick detour to get meat and hair products only. Asking prices in Barking are 23.5% higher than they were this time last year, according to yesterday’s City AM. As you leave the station you’re immediately hit by the smell of fried chicken/pigeon in the air, Mr Samamba is there 24/7 handing out his cards which will rid you of all “evil spirits, black magic, disobedient children, business, love and marriage problems” and you’ll encounter the most unsuccessful charity muggers to walk the planet. Make your way past the 12 betting shops on one stretch of the road, and you’ll come to the market that sells everything from knock-off electrical products, to saltfish patties, to mussulah mats.
This time last year, the community and environment I lived amongst was quite different. I lived in Crouch Hill/ Stroud Green/ Finsbury Park. There was an ‘artisan tax’ on everything, Ocado vans ruled the streets, I was scared to declare myself lactose tolerant for fear of social exclusion. It was a bougie life, I mean, I had a beautiful nature reserve at the back of my flat. However, I was renting a one-bed basement apartment with a propensity to get damp, an inhumane amount of natural sunlight (I probably have rickets right now as a direct result) and no phone signal whatsoever. It was a bit shit, but I loved that place, scrubbed it up, made it cute and it became home very quickly. I paid Foxtons for their ‘services’ which included calling me on the day I moved in to say “soz yeah, it hasn’t been professionally cleaned” and forgetting to give me the keys to the flat where the gas meter was located. Nonetheless, I lived independently like any young woman who is working hard in her mid-twenties should.
I paid 65% of my salary for the ‘privilege’ of doing so. Think about that percentage plus the non-essential but kinda essential things on top of that — phone bill, gym membership and transport for bloodclart London costs (which hardly runs on time, is out of service on weekends, and has you up close and personal with your [dutty stinking] fellow commuters every weekday morning). Then the little luxury of, oh I dunno, being a normal twenty-something baby girl with a social life. I’m not asking for the world here and I don’t have a taste for the finer things in life, far from it — I’ve grown up having to make sacrifices and innovate when something was just out of reach, but this city is well and truly stretching me to my limits. Just a couple of months ago a Conservative MP declared on national TV that he recently moved back in with his parents to save up for a mortgage, he told us he “knows exactly what it is like and [has] complete empathy with people in the same position.” He forgot to tell us that he earns £74,000 a year. Mad ting.
Today, an Aunty who is downstairs, listening to highlife, drinking wine and is one of my personal favs said of myself and her daughter “I wish you girls would stop meandering around the world, and put down some roots, the years will go by and soon you’ll be 30.” I completely understand where she is coming from. My immediate reaction, however: “How Sway, how?” Today the average British homebuyer must save for 24 years in order to rack up enough to be able to put down a deposit on their first home, if they save 5% of their disposable income every month. In 1997 it took just 3 years. Shit is very very real for us.
A few years ago whilst scouring the city for a place to rent with my boyfriend, we initially looked in East London where we both grew up. We were faced with competitive group viewings of council properties which we would be were presumably bought under Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme in the 1980's, which fucked us all in the long run. Yes, this is the second dig at right wing Britain in this post. Since the Conservatives came in to power, a few super bright, creative friends who had no intention of leaving the city have moved out of the country all together: a move a lot less dramatic than it may have first appeared. Third.
Owning a home in London is nowhere near high on my priority list. Firstly because this city is slowly becoming a souless playground for the rich and dry. Secondly, I am not rich, and I am not dry, so that rules that one out on a practical basis. For now, I’m extremely lucky to have parents who I get on with really well, they let me come and go as I please, and they’ve done a great job of treating me like an adult in their house even though I feel the complete opposite. I’m forever grateful that I have the opportunity to live on the outskirts of an incredible city, whilst actually being able to put some money aside for the future, but what the future entails exactly I have no idea. London, I love you but you’re really messing with my mental. As D Double E says ‘living in mumzies’ yard, that’s not me’.