16 July, 2011


No hiding place

From the disintegration of Occupied London, that is.

A policeman was shot during a street chase in South Croydon last night. Pleasingly, and unsurprisingly, the Old Bill have got their finger out and apprehended the miscreants in short order. Another newspaper reports that Operation Trident has been involved in the search. Make of that what you will, but a reasonable working assumption would be that the perps are perhaps not of the indigenous Caucasian persuasion.

Such is Croydon. Its transformation over the past 10-15 years has been staggering.

I recall the area round Euston station at one time being infested with drunken Scots beggars calling out "Can ye spare us a poond for a cup o' tea, Jimmae?" I always imagined that they had come to London on the train from Glasgae to make their fortunes and had got no further than the concourse before giving up and settling down to a life of alcoholism.

These days I find myself wondering if all the asylum seekers and other immigration hopefuls get as far as Lunar House and no further, sinking into a sort of mulitcultural criminal despond in improvised camps in the forecourt. Perhaps that accounts at least in part for the startling enrichment of Croydon.

Around the turn of the century (I love being able to say that), a large organization with which I am familiar sought to reduce its Central London office estate. Firms and public sector bodies both do this with tedious regularity. It's part of the standard reorganization cycle: the "the grass on the other side is greener" delusion. Bean counters compare office rents in the City with those in, say, Gravesend and drool simple-mindedly. Plans are hatched to encourage staff to work from home and to shove the remainder* out to the "provinces". Because a significant proportion of the staff are adamantly unwilling to relocate their homes and families and are quite prepared to leave in preference, you end up offering multiple sites on the cheap periphery of London.

A few years later, after the disruption and expense have been absorbed, the weaknesses of distributed working become apparent, and departments begin to seek crafty ways of "re-co-locating" staff. If the process runs true to form, small central London offices are set up to colocate "key operations".

This happens in all types of reorganization in large institutions both public and private sector. A wilful blindness to the fact that each "solution" has both advantages and disadvantages.

Anyway, one chappie was offered relocation from his central London office to an office in beautiful downtown Croydon in the early Noughties. It was in theory a massive life style improvement. He lived somewhere still moderately civilized just north of Croydon — don't ask me, it's not my manor — from where he could comfortably cycle or at a pinch even walk to his new office.

He refused point blank to move, citing in so many words the dangerous demographic changes.

Now I can't vouch for the validity of his fears. As I say, it's not my manor. But I did have occasion to speak to the geezer and the sheer vehemence of his position was clear enough.

Interesting times.

* Except the senior management team, of course, who "need" to remain in the posh central offices for presentational and reputational reasons, and so that they can hobnob conveniently with other members of the elite in accustomed comfort.

Part of the demographic change you refer to undoubtedly consisted of 'upwardly mobile' Brixton & Peckham blacks getting on the bottom rung of the non council house property ladder in places such as Thornton Heath & Penge.

Given this demographic, many of these households would have been headed by single mothers struggling to pay the mortgage while in basic public sector admin jobs (including, naturally, at Lunar House). Many of their offspring appear, sadly but not surprisingly, to choose the easy pickings of criminality as their route to obtaining the wherewithal to buy their bling.

Interesting. As I say, it's not really my manor. Which is a bit odd coming from an immigrant to London, like myself, but after 32 years in SE London I've likely gone a bit native.

I can never quite take Penge entirely seriously. Apart from the persistent temptation to pronounce it in a mock French manner as Ponzh, there is the curious fact this little bit of classic Sarf London is actually in the London Borough of Bromley. I csn imagine council vehicles being thoroughly scrubbed down and disinfected after unavoidable visits to this outpost.

You're from up north somewhere aren't you Edwin?

Woolwich is certainly north of Croydon. Manchester is even further north. Well beyoond Zone 6, in fact.

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