Notes on K-Town

Anyone who has been in the vicinity of late will be aware that I’m moving house this weekend. Those same people would have to be pretty vacant to have not noticed the trauma this is causing me.

I’m finding it hard to put into words, but roughly, this was K-Town earlier today:

Dreary drizzle is now coating K-Town
And accordingly, the sky is matt grey
Today is my final day, here, hear me!
I’m arriving at Cafe Brassino
‘Open for sandwiches and hot snacks to take away’

Alternatively:

Breakfasts on teak coloured shiny tables
With those plastic back classroom chairs as seats
Which skate around on well greased floor tiles
Ketchup, Brown Sauce, pepper, sugar and salt
The Sun, Mirror and Mail, available
Soft drinks, bottled water and orange juice
And naturally, fresh coffee and tea

No smoking
It is against the law to smoke on the premises

I have an albino coffee, not tea
And the best bacon sandwich in the world
Thick white slice with four rashers, almost crisp
The mirrored wall reflects the backwards sign
In the window the right way round, for me
Opposite the furry extractor fan
Which sucks in grease with a fluttering hum
Two Polish girls help Mr Brassino
Who leans on the window and gazes out
Watching life wander past on K-Town Road

There is a good service operating on the Northern Line
And the next train terminates at High Barnet
Next station Tufnell Park

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(Lesbian) holiday fever

Thursday is my new favourite day of the week. The anticipation of Friday is one of the nicest feelings I experience during the week. By around Thursday lunchtime I’m positively tingling, the excitement buzzing like a swarm of wasps, at the prospect of the weekend to come. When my Thursday 5-a-side football team was conquering the Thursday night league the elation became almost unmanageable. Luckily for the work part of my life balance, we’ve slipped a few places, of late.

However, this Thursday is Maundy Thursday and Praise the Lord, it’s a half day for Government slaves such as me. That means courtesy of my new shift pattern, I’ll be out of the office at 11am, and in a car on the M3 heading for Kernow by early afternoon. Cue untold amounts of waspish hyperactivity inside my hive-like head. I’m starting to feel dizzy already. Thank you Jesus – I can’t wait…

…To get away from work for a few days. It’s definitely time for a holiday. That’s not to say that I don’t like work – I do, especially since I just moved desks and am still enjoying the novelty value my new position holds. But desk honeymoon aside, it’s been a while since I had a holiday of any kind. As a result I’m starting to view the much loved mundanity of my daily routine with a twinge of ennui rather than the preferred bushy-tailed excitement.

Par example. Last week I find myself getting a little tetchy with the buxom Afro Caribbean woman who works in the Strutton Ground branch of Eat, who looks at me strangely and smirks every time I ask for a Mocha Chiller between the months of October and March. Usually I chuckle and take it as a compliment – Mocha Chillers still taste the same, even if it is minus two degrees outside; It’s her that’s odd not me. If anything I’m helping my body’s homeostasis by imbibing things at the natural temperature for this time of the year.

Also, a couple of days ago I found myself getting unnaturally irritable with a human hairball on the tube. Generally, I’m less-than-tolerant of people with long hair on the tube – why do those loose strands always try to attach themselves to my coat? I can see them drifting towards me, even if the owner is motionless. What’s worse is when people do a shampoo advert style flick of the head in a bid to show you just how ‘worth it’ their hair is. ‘Fly-Away’ is the expression, I believe – well, I wish it would fly-away from where I’m standing…

Honestly, sometimes I feel like a statically-charged balloon that’s been rubbed against a pair football shorts at great speed – attracting hairs like a magnet hoovering up spilt iron filings.

Usually, I manage to contain my lack of tolerance for long hair, hissing under my breath with great subterfuge and internalising the rampaging fireball of fury that is burning like the Wickerman within. Unfortunately, this time I’m sure the loud tutting noise my brain spontaneously discharged, was clearly audible. It just slipped out, like an inopportune fart, and combined with the Look of Death I gave the poor lady, made sure my feelings were not so much being worn, as being given a full-scale advertising campaign on my sleeve. Oh, if only she hadn’t turned round to look for the source of that ‘tut’…

The only explanation I can suggest for this lack of tolerance is my dire need of a break from London. When otherwise innocuous people on the tube are making me almost as angry as do the smarmy money-grabbers on daytime BBC’s ‘Homes Under the Hammer’, holiday must be actioned ASAP.

And, while I’m on the subject of Homes Under the Hammer, I might just add one more little rant before I pack bags and hit the M3, along with every other run-down, overworked, stressed out Londoner and his dog. When I was off work with a sick-bug last week I found myself watching this ‘delightful’ programme. The tales of “Mr and Mrs X who were proudly adding a 39th property to their property portfolio” and “Mr Y who wasn’t sure if his wealth was closer to five or six-billion, but had just bought a disused factory in Shorediotch for a few million quid,” make my blood evaporate. Good for him, and for them. Now they can relax their fat balding asses safe in the knowledge that despite having no personality, taste or disposable income, they are wealthy. I’m sure they will sleep well on those firm mattresses of cash. Am I jealous? No. Am I taking unnatural amounts of umbridge with these property hoarding pigs? Probably, but then a bit of healthy passion for a cause is no bad thing. Read my letter to the Camden New Journal for my wider views on property pigs.

Ah, not even the classical music that’s played on an ad hoc basis at Charing Cross tube station in the mornings could soothe the prickly fury I have developed for this issue. It’s a lucky tramp that wakes up to Bach on a cold winter weekday morning…

Other things that are currently ‘wearing thin’ include the broken ‘exit’ door in the Tesco Metro on Trafalgar Square that I forget to avoid on an almost daily basis. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve slammed into it – and I’m still not sure who is receiving more damage – if the dramatic sound effects are any indicator of pending injury then the door is fucked, although more realistically I fear shoulder dislocation beckons.

There’s also the mechanical fault that seems to blight the left-side escalator at K-Town tube station when it’s not plaguing the one at Pimlico. I’m certainly not averse to running up escalators but walking down a static one always makes me feel a little uneasy. If it was to suddenly spring into action I’d be dead, or worse still, facially disfigured by the inevitable nose dive. Hence the need to pussyfoot down it like a ballerina, wasting valuable commuting time. Grrrr…and don’t even get me started on slow-moving people.

In fact, the only part of my daily weekday routine I don’t seem to be able to get sick of is incessantly listening to Paul Simon. Why is that? My near fanatical addiction to his music perplexes me as much as my irrational anxiety problem. I know it’s something to do with living in London but I doubt I’ll ever really understand why it is that being out of reach of the Northern Line makes me feel a bit panicky yet wandering around other random cities with no direct transport links to K-Town is fine.

Nor will I reconcile how I happily (and regularly) eat croissants from the open basket in the Trafalgar Square Tesco, knowing full well they have been fingered by numerous members of the public, not to mention the grubby-pawed Tesco staff, yet I religiously observe sell by dates, await Norovirus when I even hear the word mentioned and panic at the slightest hint of a stomach pain. Come and get me disease!

I remember with incredulity the time I pulled my stomach muscles after doing jumping header practice at football one Saturday – I sat and awaited with dread the inevitable food poisoning, which thankfully never came…

I even forgot to say, “Wow,” when I walked through St James’s Park this morning and caught sight of the view of Whitehall from the bridge at the Buckingham Palace end of the Park. It’s like something even Disney couldn’t make up. But no wow. Yes, I really do need a break from London…

Post in Print!

The letter I sent to the Camden New Journal, which I mentioned in a post last week, was printed in this week’s paper. Page leader and everything!

For those I haven’t yet (excitedly) told about this, the letter berates the porcine property developers who gobbled up a clutch of houses in a recent auction, held by Camden Council. Basically, it says that property developers are bad and the root of all of society’s evils.

If you are so inclined, you may read it here.

Looking over my (lesbian) shoulder

Quite often I write while travelling on the tube. It’s hard because even the smoothest London Underground train subjects you to bumps and jolts as it whizzes up and down the Northern Line.

In fact, with some smart-arse tube drivers, the bumps and jolts are intensified as the trains approach and leave stations – apparently it’s funny to slam on the breaks and send flying the frail little old woman who’s clinging for dear life to the standing rail. She looked like she wished she’d accepted my kind offer of a seat after we stopped at Warren Street yesterday…

Anyway, on Saturday I was slouched in my seat scribbling away as I took the tube from K-Town to Waterloo, when I noticed the woman sitting next to me was peering over my shoulder at my book. The nosey cow was trying to read my journal – what cheek! It’s bad enough when someone tries to read the newspaper over your shoulder (especially if it’s one you’ve paid for), but reading something someone’s actually writing is far worse.

Luckily for her my mood was more humourous than heinous, so rather than telling her to fuck off I made her aware of my opinion on over-the-shoulder snooping in a far more eloquent way. Just after I’d finished a sentence about the joys of strap on sex with my girlfriend (joke), I wrote: “The strange looking lady sitting next to me is trying to read what I’m writing.” Cue her to visibly jump, shift her head 90 degrees to the left and spend the next five minutes inspecting the very interesting floor space directly in front of her seat. Result. Bet that’s the last time she tries to read my diary.

Unsurprisingly, I was enjoying my tube journey immensely. And, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more entertaining a pair of matching obese half-Japaneses joined the train at Tottenham Court Road. It wasn’t that they were the same shape, nor that they were wearing co-ordinated black and white Arab scarves, not even that they were producing matching beads of sweat on their sweaty fat foreheads. Perhaps it was all of those things, combined with the shoulder-snooping woman who legged it off the train at TCR, that made it the funniest three stops I’ve travelled on the N-Line for quite some time.

(Not) Working Nine to Five

This week marked a new chapter in my London Lesbian life. I started shift working for the first time. No longer must I endure the busy Northern Line trains that trundle into K-Town station packed full of sweaty workers, with little or no room for any attempt at getting on board between the hours of 08.10hrs and 09.30hrs. I have the same privilege when travelling home from my day of work too, this week at either eight or nine o’clock in the evening

Out of hours travelling has a further perk – there are new K-Town lesbians to spot. Today one got on at K-Town station and followed me all the way to Pimlico, where I got off (the tube). Because of the rigid routine of tube travel that I have followed for the past couple of years, I had never seen her before. My new routine of all sorts of random tube travel times will doubtless throw up a plethora of new lesbian obstacles for me to merrily bump into on my way to and from work. What fun!

Another plus of this shift-work thing are the gloriously sunny K-Town mornings that I’ve been able to enjoy this week, in my jeans, in my darkroom, etc. The not-so-plus side is the unexpected fatigue of working such odd hours and the slight feeling of loneliness that comes with being out of synch with the rest of the professional world

For example, I have been unable to play football with my beloved K-Town WFC chums on both Tuesday and Thursday this week. I also missed the associated post-football beers. Nor have I have I seen my girlfriend since last Sunday. In fact I’ve barely been able to coordinate a text message conversation with her.

At the moment I’m sitting at my (rather quiet) desk all by myself while my friends do normal evening things like cook dinner and play football. The keyboard is echoing as I type. The lights keep going out because they are on one of those robotic timers which switches them off if no movement is detected by the office movement-sensor. I’m the only person in the office and the sensor doesn’t deem me sufficiently mobile to warrant illumination. It’s not noticed the action of my hands feverishly typing this text. Even the bloody lights are off duty for the evening.

It’s a solitary life I will lead. That I compared my football team to a baby Conker Tree in an email earlier today, is not a good sign of how this solitude could affect my mind. That any of this might mildly bother me is almost certainly attributable to my PMT hormones running amok, it won’t be a problem next week…

…when I’m on early shifts. So up at the crack and home in broad daylight for me. Can’t wait. A plethora of football, darkroom printing and long luxurious evenings with my pals beckon. Oh, and did I mention the rather generous shift allowance I get for doing these odd hours? I’m a lucky, lucky person. With a 5.15am alarm set for Monday morning.

Oh K-Town property of my dreams, where for art thou?

It was about a month ago that the landlord of my beautiful K-Town town house decided to selfishly serve notice on the Homies and I. So, in a little more than a month’s time our beautiful first/second floor maisonette with high ceilings, roomy rooms and rangey roof terrace will no longer be our home. There is a chance that we will have to leave K-Town.

I don’t know that I will ever have the words to express how much that idea pains me, suffice to say that it is a most unpleasant feeling. I shall leave for a future post the tales of how I have settled into London in K-Town, battling High (Glandular) Fevers and traumatic break-ups along the way, while collecting a football team, a pack of cool new pals and a pair of super Homies. Likewise the use of Hampstead Heath as my back garden and the Junction, Vine and Pineapple as my close-to-hand boozers and my darkroom in South K-Town, which I have come to love and depend upon, could all be wrenched away from me at the start of April. Oh, how will I cope?!

The trauma of my impending loss is only surpassed by the infuriating realisation that there is extremely limited living space in K-Town for anyone other than billionaire famous people, those lucky enough to have a Council house or incredibly lucky fuckers. I should point out that I belong firmly in the latter category, or rather, did, until a month ago, because ever since we found out we had to move it seems there has been a dearth of rental property pour trois personnes. Unless one is willing to part with in excess of £800/week. Each.

As with any such trauma, I am using words as a coping strategy. Last week I directed the associated anger at property developers, in a letter to the Camden New Journal, my (soon-to-be ex-) local paper:

Dear Sir

I read with utter disgust the article on page 2 of last week’s paper, ‘Developers pay millions at council’s homes auction’. Of the seven properties auctioned last week, not one was sold to a private home-buyer.

When I moved to Kentish Town nearly two years ago, I immediately fell in love with the area and my local community. I’m part of a local women’s football team, I’m on first name terms with my local corner shop keeper and I do most of my socialising in the local area. I long to stay, but since being served notice by my good landlord, my housemates and I are struggling to find somewhere even remotely affordable to rent, let alone buy.

I’m a firm believer that every member of the working, earning, contributing public should have the right to aspire to owning their own home. When even those earning salaries above the average for their local area are unable to afford to rent, much less buy property in those areas then something is gravely amiss.

The (nameless) property developers won last week’s auctions fair and square, splashing out sufficient amounts of cash to ensure that there was absolutely no chance of any one of those houses becoming a home any time soon. But, is it fair that real people can no longer aspire to owning their own home in Camden?

I understand the concern that those on the Council’s housing waiting lists must feel, but there is a dire need for affordable homes. The properties sold in last week’s auction were undeveloped, unrenovated, so-called ‘fixer uppers’. Those trying to get a foot on the property ladder should be able to realistically aspire to making these houses their homes.

Shame on you Camden Council, for cashing in and effectively selling off your communities to perk up the bank balance. Is it not true that stable homes are the basis of stable families and thus stable communities? It’s common knowledge that home owners stay longer in and contribute more to their local communities. Surely nobody wants to see Camden become a community of people who ‘stay here’, rather than ‘live here’.

A rented house is by it’s nature transient and tenants rarely take in it the sort of pride they would in a home of their own. Developers can transform those beautiful period houses into immaculate modern flats that few can afford, but will they become homes? Will they add anything to the local community? I fear not.

I’m not blaming these particular property developers for the woes of society, or more specifically the plight of people like me, who are being forced out of their local community. Nor am I blaming Camden Council. But, the importance of stable homes shouldn’t be undervalued. It won’t be long before the only people who own homes in our local area are the unfathomably wealthy. And when they die, the property developers will doubtless be poised, ready to swoop in for the kill.

Likewise, soon the only people who will be able to afford Camden rent prices will be Eurostar Business Lounge travelers on a quick stopover in our fair Borough. “Community – qu’est-ce que c’est?”

Regards

Me, of K-Town