Saturday 13 November 2010

Where the Upwards Live

When I bought a flat in Hackney (London) in the 80s a friend said: "Well, people are moving into the East End now" (as if the teeming millions, Eliza Doolittle and the Brothers Kray didn’t live there already). Samantha is appalled when her area begins to degentrify and bookshops are replaced by pound shops – or never gentrifies as promised.

Before Samantha's daughter Thalia moves out of London, she and her husband and children live in a large house in a distant and unfashionable suburb (though she’d never call it that) which is just next to a slightly more fashionable suburb. But it’s worth living in the less-desirable area because you get more space for your money.

Upwards have a sense of entitlement about space: they think they deserve a really, really big house with a lot of land (paddocks, orchards). If they live in a small house they act as if it was much bigger, filling it with nick nacks and clutter and huge furniture and never throwing anything away. That’s the real reason they move to the country, or France.

Upwards can't live in suburbs, or in provincial towns. Giles Whittell wrote in The Times
January 10, 2008: Some close friends of mine are in the following two-phase pickle. Phase one: respectable family with loveable kids pays mindbending school fees for want of a decent state primary, drawing psychological and sometimes actual support from soaring house prices. Phase two: credit crunch hits house prices and coincides with (yet) another baby...
“So move!” I tell them. “Do what everyone else does and get out!” But they're too delusional, or vain. (I've heard them talk about Tunbridge Wells and season tickets as a sort of death.) ...It's a tribal thing.

Stoke Newington is a suburb of North London attractive to Upwards who buy small Victorian houses and have two children called Chloe and Hugo. It’s very child-friendly, with children’s clothes shops with twee names like Two Potato Three. Stokey mums take their tiny children to the Belle Epoque café on Newington Green (where you can buy a peach tart for £11.50). The children go to the good primary schools in the area but before they reach secondary school age the parents move to Crouch End where the schools are better and less “mixed”.

Stokey attracts a particular brand of Upward. They used to be very politically active and there are still a lot of gay couples. The straight couples consist of a powerful woman and a pale, scrawny man whose shoulders are bowed under the weight of the small child strapped to his chest. His wife buys all his clothes including the baggy shorts he wears in summer. They don’t have rows, they “discuss issues”. Stokey dad is often found in sole charge of the kids. He talks to them in public plaintively and reasonably and much too much (and in slightly too loud a voice). He gives them scientific explanations why they can’t eat anything containing E numbers. The children tell you that they can’t have fizzy drinks or they’ll become hyperactive. They become drug addicts later in life.

Stokeys hang out in Fresh and Wild eating health foods and reading the notices about drumming circles, Pilates classes and baby yoga. There are two natural health centres. Shops run by Stokey couples sell 50s glassware, organic linen, recycled clothes. Many go bust quite fast, or else shut down when the couple move to Crouch End, where they open a boutique (linen shifts), or a club/café for their friends. Crouch End has so many psychotherapists it is known as Couch End.

Older Upwards move from London to the Cotswolds and become so scared of the big city that on their rare visits everybody they see at Waterloo is a Romanian asylum-seeker on the game. Also as they don’t go out very much any more they never see ordinary people. In fact they avoid places where ordinary people might be (Oxford Street, the seaside). They ask “How can you live in London? Oxford street is so crowded!” They avoid the wrong parts of France.

To many Upwards, the world consists of their own patch (Rock, the Cotswolds, North Norfolk, Fulham, Chelsea, Scotland, Crouch End) and they don't see anything outside it. In London they travel by tube, not bus, so as not to see the places in between.

Photo by Me.


  1. This brand of Stokey has moved on, and been replaced by more regular middle-class people. When the dads are alone with their children they shout at, bully and hector them. I miss weedy bloke.

  2. Where have they moved on to?

  3. Dalston, Walthamstow (now known as "Awesomestow"), London Fields, Shacklewell...