The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd April 2021

Easter weekend which means it’s two years since Celia and I did the Guildford circular walk via Watts gallery. I am cold. I have been sitting outside with B&J having an al fresco meal. I didn’t feel cold then, but coming in I suddenly want to wrap a blanket around myself, convince MasterB he wants to sit on my lap (he doesn’t, he’s sitting across from me, on the chair, having a wash), snuggle into the sofa cushions.

The meal was delicious, from a Vietnamese takeaway close to the Elephant which I have known was there for years, but never tried. The exterior does not invite. The interior is plain, there are no takeaway menus to take away. J had heard about it, then read reviews, all of which were full of praise to the point of ecstasy. There is no website, it’s cash only in these cash less times; it’s very much old Elephant rather than the new shiny, sanitised, any place model being promoted by the developers. I’d say its days are numbered.

There are plans to put a penthouse storey on top of the council flats where I used to live. I am affronted. We called our flat the penthouse suite as it was on the top (seventh) floor with views to die for. We also called it Seventh Heaven, though that was usually ironic and when the lift wasn’t working; or the Centipede With a Wooden Leg, because of the joke and we lived at number 99. Now it seems the joke was on us.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th May 2020

Saturday but less shopping than usual. Rather nice actually, especially as there is definitely a more relaxed attitude to social distancing, so keeping away from the main road and the shops made sense. Last night I was kept awake but a thumping bass somewhere near. A party I reckon. Also much more noise from the streets, people talking, some shouting, police helicopters. I love that people are feeling safer, but I fear it’s all too premature. The weather is fabulous and of course people want to be out and enjoying themselves. Tomorrow the temperature is due to drop, so I hope that makes people stay indoors, stop and think a minute.

The other day I started wondering where my bus pass was. I haven’t used it for more than a month. I found it in my duffel coat pocket. It was like a trip down memory lane. When we were out yesterday, had there not been an open loo at Westminster I thought I might rush home by bus. Bizarrely although we are told avoid public transport it looks safe because we are avoiding it so buses are empty, rarely do you see more than two or three people on one. I couldn’t see a single passenger on a train that hurtled past us yesterday. It’s oxymoronic. If we started using them because they are empty and therefore safe, they become unsafe. But oh the temptation to take a train to the Surrey Hills and walk. Boots and backpack might be a bit of a give-away that travel was not essential. And then there would be the guilt.

Returning via parks and back streets from Elephant Sainsbury’s the only people I spoke to had dogs. I have noticed that if you smile at someone’s pet, that person smiles at you. Nice. Continue reading

Whose Regeneration is This?

A few years ago a terrible fire broke out by our old town hall. I happened to be walking down the road at the time, and saw the billowing smoke and the flames leaping from the roof. It was an incident that drew the community together. At a public meeting soon afterwards, the audience made it clear that the town hall, and the library next door were both buildings the community valued. It seemed that our council officers took note, and planned to restore both buildings and keep them as community buildings.

Roll forward to 2016. Sunny Walworth, my home for more than three decades, is part of the extended regeneration zone around the Elephant and Castle. I believe it would be fair to say that the regeneration has not been quite what local people imagined it would be. We started with high hopes for our neighbourhoods, our communities. Gradually these hopes have been repaved by cynicism.

Whose regeneration is this?

It feels like neighbourhoods and communities are being unmade and remoulded, and the remoulding is for people the developers want to attract. This has been a diverse area, and one that has seen little division. Intentionally or not, regeneration has created a them and us scenario.

Increasingly it has felt as though established communities are voiceless. We can look on, but the place we regard as home is being redesigned for others. We are outsiders in our own neighbourhood. Continue reading