Sunday 12 May 2013

Gentrification IV

Wise words from housing-watcher and London-lover @robbieds: "Emerging [neighbourhoods] means they've pretty much emerged already though." (‏@RobertaWedge)

The trappings of gentrification – expensive coffee and bike shops, junk sold at a premium as “vintage” and, soon after, bitterly resented chain outlets… The crowds these areas attract also look pretty samey, and… can also seem just as aspirational and judgemental of others as the primmest suburbanites… with each community maintaining separate cafés, pubs and even grocery stores. I didn’t see much inter-class mixing among my neighbors either, publicly or privately. (Feargus O’Sullivan) (But why does he assume suburbanites are aspirational, judgemental and prim?)

I was wrong about Stoke Newington – it hasn’t become Fulham (though London Fields may have become Notting Hill). Instead it is full of young men with short beards and their vintage-clad girlfriends. At weekends, they all like to go out to breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner and then to a club, so there are lots of cafés, pubs and clubs that cater to their tastes. At the moment they may outnumber the couples with large houses and children. They have taken over a lot of Dalston and Stoke Newington High Street. Every week another under-used pub gets a clean-up and a paint job and becomes a packed gastropub. The 30s tearooms are still a bit ironic - but Ladurie macaroons are plain luxury. We middle-class Upwards are ashamed of luxury so we disguise it as something else. We pretend we prefer the shabby and run-down because it’s all we can afford. And the last thing we want is for people to say “But they’re just you with more money.”

And God forbid anybody should suggest we are these young people, 30 years on.

Working-class Sharon Definitely and her partner Darren want to move to Australia where you can get your own house for far less and have lovely weather and a pool and be near a beach. They have transferable skills: Sharon works in a care home and Darren is a builder. Of course the kids will miss their friends, and they’ll miss their friends, and leaving their elderly parents will be a wrench… maybe they’ll stay put and just get a caravan somewhere.

Upwards don’t move to Australia or New Zealand despite the stunning scenery. No culture, no theatah, no decent telly, no art galleries – no Radio 4! No Archers! Except they could listen on iplayer… But basically, no People Like Us. Everyone can afford a more luxurious lifestyle in the former colonies – just like in the olden days.

When Upwards think “I deserve better than this poky flat!” they move to France.

Many more have bought lovely properties in rural France and then found themselves isolated, both physically and culturally, especially in winter when much of rural France effectively closes down. (Daily Telegraph July 2012)

It's the dream of every Samantha Upward to live in the country and support herself by writing and illustrating children's books. If Sam writes a novel, the central character will be a woman who does just this. No need to commute, or wear a repressive uniform (smart office clothes), no need to conform, no need to suppress your individuality, no need to Work For The Man… Some Upwards live their whole adult lives in London or another big city while thinking they really ought to be in the country. The empty countryside they think they want to move to is of course “tranquil” and “idyllic” and a “rural idyll”.

It's important to realise that while many people with jobs in cities feel like they absolutely must have a house with a big yard, it still is a choice. (Economist blog Nov 7 11)

More here.


  1. Do you think there's a good class indicator in those wooden studio/offices you can get built in the garden? Refer to it as 'my shed' self-deprecatingly, but get annoyed if anyone else does. I think it's really your second home/beach hut, but it was cheaper to install it in the garden and you don't have that long drive on Friday & Sunday evenings. And Samantha can do her children's books in it!

  2. Yes - but they're sensible and lovely!