Writers ought, perhaps, to leave the protective cosiness of their homes and socialise every now and again, see other people so as to have more to draw on than their solipsistic selves; they may want to see a touch more of the tangible world beyond their doorsteps and escape the bubble of the hyperbolised world constructed by the media.
An event far down south drew me all the way from far up north the other day, one of the scarce outings I have done this year and the first one out of the pseudo-middle-class bubble I have found myself ensconced in. Having come too early to loiter in a pub without the intent to put down any brain cells with a sugar-laden beverage, I took a stroll around Deptford and explored with a lay sociologist’s eye the setting of Kate Tempest’s brilliantly disheartening novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses. I may have resided in places more or less grim, but as yet I have not lived in a place where the local high street has five betting shops huddling together next to their handy cousin, the pawnbroker’s.
It may be trite for a person who feels out of place everywhere to note how incongruous I felt in that street and how alienating the feeling was; but that was the effect of the place on me: a place left behind by the mainstream, local traders’ personal businesses in place of coffee factories; graffiti, tags, garbage, the otherness of the place’s commercial composition, the seedy, the beautiful and the beautifully seedy were all inevitably interpreted in terms of deprivation. It engendered in me a sentiment of pretence and dissembled dissonance, perceived, churning and solidified in my oeasophagus, trachea, self-consciousness.
In my search for security, I recently dismissed the notion of displacement and moved into another borough in the north of the city. The move involved dealing with agencies bent on stripping and ripping off until the tenant has realised they have just signed a contract in blood and bony hand, their accounts have sunk into figures of an identically sanguine hue and their wrists have been tied tight behind their spineless back by an property investor living in a prosperous Far Far Away. The decision drove me into a flat in a dead-end road so secluded and soundless it cannot be overheard over the peace of the graveyard across the alley darker than the estate agent’s goodwill, a road whose rate of burglary stands at 80% higher than the average and whose disquieting quiet allows for no rest. It is a working-class dwelling at a middle-class price with two people in it trying to feel the security they’re renting while being too aware of its dearth. People of Deptford, at least, do not seek the illusion of stability, the faux-respectability and branded seal of approval in a life-style far beyond its worth. They live the reality with all its dreams, the realised, the unrealised and the abyssally bleak.