Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Redmayne House Obituary

A gap cleared in the sky today.
After 35 years a light shone in the basement.

My family home in Brixton is surrounded by 60s built council estates. 
That's just what I know and that's just what I grew up with.

In the last 10 years gentrification has been creeping like a rash across the south london landscape.

Most of my childhood was surrounded by violence and trouble, 
Of course I wanted that to change.

Of course it did change, the area got attention, the area improved and we were all pleased to see issues get tackled and challenged.

But there is a tipping point...
Big corporate companies move in, property developers move in, local businesses can't afford it any more, local residents can't afford it any more, council estates get knocked down and luxury flats go up...

Memoirs of Redmayne House.

From the French windows of my victorian council house and rubbled filled garden,
I can see the entrance to Redmayne House.

Unlike the main estate this one stands alone.
A unit, down half a road with shops below.

I would go and buy my Beano and my sweets and my crisps
with my 50p pocket money every week.

There were three shops there when I was small,
There was a, long-gone, middle shop.
I'd forgot
but I think I dream about it sometimes and the eighties sunlight streams through the door on a hot summers day.

The bear is what my dad called the big black guy who owned the first shop
but he was also known as Buddy and his shop was known as Buddies,
he who owned the first shop.
It was always smoky and always had a gaggle of older black guys in it.
Everything in the shop was out of date but he was always nice to me
which was rare in my neighbourhood.

The far shop was Grumpies,
I brought my first fags from there,
he was not happy about it but I was 16 and brought 2000AD from there.
Grumpy got grumpier and I stopped going there.
He didn't like anyone, always miserable,
but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have to put up with a lot being there,
next to the second roughest estate in London.

The stretch of grass along Redmayne House,
if you looked close was full of weeds, dog shit and needles,
my dad pointed it out to me.

One time, I looked out the front window and saw a big man beating a women holding a baby,
he was beating her with a wooden chair leg.
He had chased her round to Redmayne, house entrance.

We called the police.
The police couldn't see what was happening
so we relayed what we could see to the police car sitting outside.
I was never told what came of that, whether she was rescued or killed.
So it goes.

The entrance to the garages claimed at least 3 of our cats lives,
RIP Elvis, Pigsy and others I have forgotten.

Sometimes we would walk along the back wall overlooking 12 foot drop garage entrance
with it's anti climbing paint and glass inbedded in wall.
Occasionally we'd sit on the garage roofs.

When the building was to be demolished a few years back
it was clear a few families in there refused to leave.
You could see life in window ledges full of plants or laundry. 
Buddy and Grumpy left, the shops went first.

Over the last year, squatters tried to claim it
I'd see these guys sneak through the fencing
then later gathered on a street corner drinking Special Brew.
Course that's illegal now so they didn't stick.

Word came round a year or so ago telling us the new plans.

The money men decided to make the new luxury building 8 stories high and closer to our back wall.

Goodbye blue sky.
The new rich neighbours don't like the garage road that goes behind their wall..
Which means the taller building is closer, thanks for asking us new rich neighbours.
Bye-bye sun, bye-bye sky.

My mother keeps saying, well if we get global warming we might be glad of the shade, but the truth is their home will be darker and gloomier.

No one listens to a council tenant, even if they are the locked-in elderly who have been protecting and improving this area for the last 30 years fyi my parents have taken in and supported hundreds of people in their lifetime on this corner next to the 2nd roughest estate in London and who will be more trapped at home more than those who approved this decision, thanks for asking.

But that is how it goes with the gentrification...money talks not listens.

So Redmayne has come down, and we, in our home, look out in awe and wonder at the empty space, soo much sky, so much light.

In time the noise levels will be up as they build the luxury monolith and slowly the window to the sky will be bricked up.

The in-between is now the gap of sky the peace.

The birds who sat on the building, the magpies and crows, now hop about in the space remaining, bemused.

And so it goes, so do we.

No comments:

Post a Comment