The rise of the unaffordable

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 30 June 2014

I walked from Clapham South in the sunshine.

Through Nappy Valley with their Rolls Royce push-chairs and £2.2 million houses. Past the builders building basements, past the builders building conservatories, past the builders who are putting in loft extensions. All the time wondering how the other half live. The ones who have to wait for their evicton notices as Tory landowners claim back their estates.

I walked down Northcott Road with more house sellers than fishmongers.

Down to Lavender Hill and The Junction. A new bendy café on the corner, since the riots, serving up 57 varieties of coffee whilst the unemployable drift past waiting for the dregs.

Down towards York Road.

Past a new Halal meat restaurant with fancy gold condiment sets and cabinets full of Arabian sweetmeats.

Battersea High Street has changed since I was there last. No more Manny's French restaurant with heart, no more Caribbean shop that sold single fruit by the paper bag, no more chitty-chatty greengrocers.

Past THE CASTLE which is awaiting redevelopment into more apartments that only a handful of Chinese Potentates can afford.

Left to the old flat. I could see the boards up round the Thai restaurant. Already covered in posters, Bill Stickers hasn't been prosecuted yet. The corner felt sad. I felt sad. Walked to the bustop and the 170 came. I had to get on.

Beeped my freedom past, the two tones had the driver looking perplexed but thats because my freedom pass is now East Sussex not London Boroughs.

I stayed on for three stops then alighted at Battersea Bridge.

Big new Co-op supermarket, fancy flats being built behind the Art School building.

Why visit my old haunts if I'm encased by bus, I thought. So I stepped off and walked backwards down the river. Everything appeared the same. The flowers, the view, the river flowing just as well without me. Past two readers, two cyclists, through my little church and into Battersea Square again.

I walked smartly towards Battersea Bridge again. The No.19 arriving with 6 minutes to spare. I love that route. Over the Bridge, right down Kings Road, left at Sloane Square, right onto Sloane Street, left towards Hyde Park Corner and Piccadilly and before you can say 'Are there always queues outside The Hard Rock caff?' I got off.

Travelling as a tourist is not the same as travelling as a local. The tourist has an objectivity, has an ability to enjoy without any of the the responsibility of the home crowd.

Indeed one of my first jobs as a performer was in Amsterdam, it enabled me to behave soooo outrageously I procured myself a flat on the back of it. By flashing my personality and accepting the bunch of keys on the counter I re-routed my life.

From touring with a company of wild men, travelling on the back of a motorcycle and locking myself away in whatever room I found myself. I left them. took stock and relocated to Amsterdam. made dark coffee, ate Indonesian, bought shoes and had my hair washed in cold water. When it became clear that he felt more than I did I, broke it off and came home to help create a theatre group.

Unfortunately the well established journo, whose keys they were, fell in love with me and I with his Old Spice soap as well as his superbly appointed apartment on the Pricengracht. It wouldn't have been the same had he thrown me his keys to a bedsit in Wrexham.

We lasted until my mother refused him entry into the family home declaring him to be 'Too, too ugly'.

He wasn't that bad but I have to admit to his black stained teeth from smoking too much 'Drum' tobacco.

I was working at the Royal Court on a new John Osborne play - 'Sense of Detachment' - which my co-actor and I renamed 'Sense of Disinterest'. Every night I would sit in the front row, wearing a hairpiece and a proper black cocktail dress as my actor 'husband' heckled rehearsed lines. The play was trounced. I understudied both Rachel Kempson, as tall as a Birch Tree and Denise Coffey as small as a Euonymous bush. Thankfully I never went on. But I went out every night to the pub next door, which no longer exists.

Whilst standing at the bar, not long after my mothers eviction, the Dutch Journalist, clutching a copy of John Fowles 'The Magus', raced into the pub. He threw himself onto his knees, asked me to marry him, thrust the book into my hands and left. He had flown in from Schiphol airport to make his proposal. Needless to say I declined his entreatments. I still have the book with his handwritten plea, a forward sloping, intelligent, easy hand, the ink has faded a touch.

The irresponsibility of my actions in Amsterdam led to a passionate, ridiculous romance. I would not have been quite so cavalier had I been performing in Deptford, however I'm still on the lookout for that soap, although I think they may have discontinued the range. I can still smell Amsterdam and the attic apartment with it's pully to draw up pianos and tables, the smell of mushrooms, sandelwood and nights on the canal.

I climbed off the No.19 and walked through Air Streeet, arriving at Golden Square in time to have a banana and some grapes from the studio's fruit basket. Read a bit of 'Vogue' and slurped down a latté.

The voice over took 3 and a half seconds. I did it three times. 10 and a half seconds later I was out, walking to Charing Cross.

The smile of caffeine radiating through my body. Two canisters of fly spray in my bag, the Evening Standard for the crossword, and a sense of well being. I caught the 5.45 train to Tunbridge Wells.

I love London, I love my home. If I could exchange a little of London Town into my cottage and a little of my garden into London Town, life would be peachy. But then you cant have everything, after all where would you put it.....

I don't know what happened to the Journo, although I do know the theatre I worked in has since been torn down to make way for more unaffordable flats - in Holland.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

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