Starting from the new year, I’m switching offices from suburban Wimbledon to central London (West End to be precise). This is good for several reasons: a) I’m feeling a little left out of all the exciting London action here in the suburbs, b) most of my friends work in central London, and c) let’s hope I’ll be able to do more exciting things after work and meet new people rather than just heading straight home. It’s bad for several other reasons: a) the office is in the basement (I have a thing for sunlight; in fact one of the main things I love about my current apartment are the giant windows) and b) my commute is going to be a lot longer than now … which has made me wonder if there are any neighbourhoods I could move to that are closer. My research is mostly confirming my general feeling that everything in central London is either: a) stupidly expensive, or b) crap.
Take my friend S., who lives in Finsbury Park. She’s been persuading me to move to the area for ages. (“It’s cheap and I can get to Piccadilly Circus in 10 minutes!”) While I’m jealous of her short commute, I always had my doubts and thought the place was a bit rough for my taste. Oh boy … I had no idea just how rough. Over the past year, somebody got stabbed right in front of her bedroom window (she came home to police tape all around the entrance), and just recently while we were on holiday she got burgled – someone broke a window with a knife to get into the building and then actually kicked in the door to her apartment. They left the knife in her apartment as a friendly reminder of their visit. Yet, the police claim they found no fingerprints or DNA evidence. Errrr…, slightly more drama than I can handle. Just slightly.
My research into London neighbourhoods has thrown up a great new source, the Inside London website. Some of their neighbourhood descriptions made me laugh out loud. Some of the best ones below:
Camden: “… while posh in parts, is basically a drug fuelled lunatic asylum (although, as a result, very creative with very good nightlife).”
Hammersmith: “… a somewhat schizophrenic place caught between 60's concrete nightmare and beautiful pubs on the Thames.”
Peckham: “North of East Dulwich (SE22) things remain reasonably pleasant as you go through Nunhead (SE15) and Peckham Rye and then we get to... Peckham (SE15). Oh dear.
Long the butt of London jokes, notorious in the public imagination as a centre for guns, gangs and general dodginess, Peckham is actually an oasis of civic harmony, bleeding-edge modern architecture and progressive community relations. Hahaha. Ok seriously. The above (the bit about general dodginess, guns and gangs, NOT the other bit) is all true. There are many gangs here. Shooting incidents are depressingly frequent. BUT, if you are not involved with gangs, guns, narcotics, car theft, joy-riding, etc. IF you have reasonable street smarts and are not prone to wandering the streets at 3am pissed off your arse with your ipod in full view and turned to maximum volume... It can be ok. There are plenty of normal people that live here.”
Hackney: “Now we head back to Hackney... Affectionately known as 'Crackney' and recently voted worst place to live in London, Hackney could certainly be said to suffer from a bit of an image problem. Parts of Hackney are a bit dire (I mean this in the same sense that parts of the area around Chernobyl are a bit dire). But it's not all bad!”