Ode to Self-righteousness

Searching for a piece of solid ground

on which to make a stand

finding only slippery clay, cold wet shifting sand

nothing stable, untainted, pure

Everything corrupted

My own fine clothes exposed as rags

when the truth brutally interrupted!


Constantly falling into the abyss

outside space-time dimension

no beginning, end, finish, start

or realistic comprehension


Hating this so-fallen self

that no longer walks amongst the angels

my pitiful deluded self, against my soul it rages

hands and face like melting wax

dripping on to the keys of a pianola

Its constant tune plays sorrow’s song

as I yearn for paradise tomorrow


Still the parasites, the leeches

continue sucking at my core

the man I aspire to be

a mirage in this war

I see him in holographic dreams

awaking in sweat and terror!


The morning tormentors return once again

Pointing out my faults, my errors

Kept for perverse security

like two old cats about the place

my only fear of drowning

In God’s eternal lake of Grace….



M.C. Bolton, January 2018



Happy New Year? From RBKC


The new year began with no justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. National media coverage has faded, with the initial outrage at the failings of the state becoming a whimper. But in North Kensington, it’s different. Grenfell dominates the local landscape and mindscape, and people are still hard at work supporting survivors and holding the community together.

We spoke to one such person, Rajaa Chellat, an integrative counsellor who is working in a collective of therapists under the name My Shepherd.

“This kind of trauma has never hit a community like this before”

The Work

The group provide support for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and affected local residents. The sessions are held at the offices of local charity Making Communities Work and Grow, and group therapy is also provided every Monday morning at the offices of the Westway Trust. The service is funded by West London philanthropists and this has recently been boosted by local authority money.

We asked Rajaa what the motivation of her and her colleagues is. “We saw a gap in provision early on, a lack of emotional support from the authorities, and this is an ongoing issue”.

Three weeks from the day of the fire, which killed 71 people, Rajaa and her colleagues we able to offer desperately-needed therapeutic support. The My Shepherd team includes an art therapist, a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) specialist and an American therapist whose son was killed in gun crime in the States.

“This needs to be long term,” Rajaa told us, “I’m passionate about it. This kind of trauma has never hit a community like this before”.

Personal Story

And the disaster has hit Rajaa hard. Members of her family occupied two flats in the tower. Those on the ninth floor escaped, but five relatives on the 21st floor did not and were all killed. These were Rajaa’s uncle, his wife and their three children.

Rajaa lives opposite the burnt-out tower, surely the most sickening sight in Britain today. It is visible through her window, and to protect her child the curtains stay closed at all times.

Rajaa’s passion for helping others has been her way of coping with the enormity of the situation: “I’m adamant that we keep this going because you would never expect this to happen in the UK in a building like that”.

“The whole community has PTSD”


On June 14th as the tower burned, the Moroccan ambassador was on the scene. The king of Morocco promised to pay funeral costs for the victims’ families, and has been good to his word. Rajaa contrasts this with the less straightforward conduct of Kensington and Chelsea council.

The therapist told Urban Dandy that those engaging with the My Shepherd service have no trust in the local authority in Kensington, that there has been no serious change in the attitude of the council as the months have passed.

Rajaa describes the council’s approach: “It’s ‘let’s shut them up and not deal with the emotional side.’ But I think it’s time to open Pandora’s box. This is what the council’s missing, they’re not thinking of emotional trauma: The whole community has PTSD”.

More money is needed for therapy, says Rajaa, along with better organisation of NHS services, which are all over the place, geographically.



Anyone looking at the Grenfell situation knows that housing policy is the key issue. Before and after the fire, attitudes to meeting the most basic need of a human being have been decisive. Rajaa agrees: “The survivors are spending too long in hotels. On top of that, people who lived in the tower and people who lived in the walkways (the low-rise blocks on the Lancaster West estate) are being treated the same, but the tower survivors should take priority”.

All the residents of Lancaster West have been affected, not just by the trauma of witnessing the fire close up, but also by the loss of a reliable gas supply ever since. All residents are now entitled to social housing and relocation, if they want to leave Lancaster West. How long this takes, where it will be and how secure it will be are all council policy decisions.

Of the people living in limbo that she has spoken to, Rajaa told Urban Dandy: “They don’t want to live in hotels, but they don’t trust the council when they offer posh flats in Kensington. They wonder whether council tax will go up. These things aren’t explained properly. My auntie, who was on the ninth floor, took one of the posh flats; she’s a teacher, she’s well-educated and has a stable income, but for those that have less economic independence, and without strong English, they’re scared to take new places”.

“Some people have been offered properties that are too far away, out of the borough, away from home. People feel genuinely trapped in the system, they’re in fight or flight mode. They’re just dealing with the practicalities now, they tell us: ‘I can’t deal with my emotions at the moment’”.

And what is prolonging the resettlement of the victims? “The authorities aren’t willing to give empty homes to the community.”

The borough has 1,200 long-term empty homes, 9,300 second homes as well 6,000 homes listed as owned by companies registered in tax havens. So, the real estate is available, but hasn’t been utilised for Grenfell survivors, and there has been no suggestion by either local or national government that the unused homes will be requisitioned.

“Drugs, alcohol and suicide will be the issues in 2018”


The My Shepherd therapists are in a unique position to predict what 2018 will bring. And Rajaa’s assessment is grim: “Drugs, alcohol and suicide will be the issues in 2018”.

“People lack an understanding of trauma and the vocabulary to think about it and care for themselves. They say: ‘I’ll deal with it once the practicalities are sorted out’ – but the practicalities are a nightmare. And trauma can hit you whenever. It’s only going to get worse in 2018 unless we deal with the emotional side”.


Things get even more dismal when the conversation narrows to men and their experience of the disaster. “Men aren’t gonna talk about it. They want to fix things, so they’re repressing their emotions.” So, men aren’t attending the counselling sessions on offer, and are emasculated by waiting for homes and justice, now a perpetual strain over which they have little or no control.

North Kensington

The North Kensington community will gather for another silent walk on 14th January to mark seven months since 71 lives were lost and many more scarred forever. And what of North Kensington, where Rajaa was raised, and where she contributes so much for so little material reward? She and her colleagues take the approach: “It’s not about religion, it’s about humanity. It’s about what you give. You ask: ‘what can I give?’ We will never not be on offer and the group is ongoing”


Interview with the Leader of K & C Council

Urban Dandy was keen to ascertain the views of the leader of the council, Elizabeth Campbell, who had vowed to do things differently when she took over the post in July, after the previous leadership was forced to resign. We were curious about whether she could see this trauma outside the political prism of caution, maintenance of power and press release wordplay. Who is running the council in the borough’s hour of need? An emotionally shattered community deserves the respect of some obvious questions being answered…

But despite initially saying she was “happy to try and answer” our questions, the council leader failed to confirm that she would speak to us.


On Sunday, the local community will gather near Grenfell Tower for its slow, silent march to honour those who died. Among those paying their respects will be many people like Rajaa, who have found the strength to nurture life in the shadow of death. There will be many schoolchildren who have witnessed more than they ever should. Activists, campaigners, neighbours, philosophical people…thinkers questioning who benefited from Grenfell not being safe, from the lousy treatment of the survivors. Asking what ideology can be so far gone that it cannot change course in the face of such horrors as Grenfell?

As writers, our only duty is to tell the truth. As politicians, their plan is to not give the game away. Hence, swerving the interview with Urban Dandy.

Our questions were about a series of political calculations that have been made: The calculation that the people in the tower were worth the fire risk in order to save some money; the calculation that there is less political damage done by not rehousing people properly; and there is much more to be gained by selling off North Kensington’s public services than by investing in them.

Another calculation made was: that it is better to ignore us than answer our questions.

All in the name of ‘regeneration,’ labelled by others as degeneration, gentrification, degradation, humiliation…

2018 begins where 2017 left off: Those marching silently in North Kensington represent life and dignity. Those hiding from scrutiny and justice represent a power system that stands for something very different.

Happy new year, from RBKC


Rajaa Chellat can be contacted at Rajaa@myshepherd.co.uk 07960776445

Rajaa’s colleague, Dr Sara Alsaraf can be reached at saraalsaraf@gmail.com


A timeline of the Grenfell disaster is here

Previous posts on gentrification and housing policy can be found here, here and here


By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Thrown Into The Wilderness



Come Out The Wilderness – Bruce Kenrick, Fontana Publishers


It may or may not be something that caught your attention but if you live in Notting Hill, there is a conflict going on in your neighbourhood that’s similar to a tug of war and it’s been going on ever since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June. Although technically the issue was alive way before the fire, the events surrounding the tragedy seem to have exacerbated the situation. It appears at first glance to be the community’s reclamation of property from the corporate real estate community killers, but it’s more accurate to describe it as the community trying to hold on to their right of abode and seeking some kind of guarantee that their landlords give a …(explicit)… and actually want them there.

While you sleep, groups of regular people like you that do not own property in London are awake at ungodly hours printing flyers, writing letters, emails, creating banners and appealing to any government official that will listen to them to secure YOUR homes. That is of course if you are a tenant of Notting Hill or Genesis Housing.

Out in the grind


Two of the largest housing associations in the country, Notting Hill, and Genesis, both members of the G15 (an amalgamated group of UK housing associations), have decided to join forces merging their tenancy obligations into one big soup. On tacitly agreeing to this with no disclosure of the pros and cons underlying the merger, tenants are pretty disgruntled. Why? Well, to start with they have not consented to it and feel marginalised in such a major move. Also, there’s a resounding feeling that their acquiescence plays a large part in them moving this forward in a swift need-to-know only basis. The suspicious manner in which this is being executed raises questions as to the legality of it all especially in the way it was sprung on the community right after the fire.

What will this mean to the tenants’ security?  With all this considered who stands to gain from this corporate deal? Is the interested party Genesis Housing, Notting Hill Housing or the confused tenant?

As obvious questions as these may seem to those making the deal, those who are only just becoming aware of the shifts in name, business practice, policy, and structure feel the need to start connecting the dots. In my hunt to bring this information forth, I searched Notting Hill Housing Group on the mother of search engines: Google. My reason being that I wanted to know if the business structure had changed from a ‘Trust’ to ‘Group’, at what point, if it made any difference and what that difference would mean to the beneficiaries of the trust and also who might the beneficiaries be? Trust, Beneficiary, ya know?

Google shows no ‘Trust’  in NHH.


The screen grab above shows that there is no mention of a ‘Group’ and there is no ‘Trust’. What is this Group thing and where’d it come from? Other sources (online) show neither Group nor Trust, just Notting Hill Housing. In my confusion, I looked for a good old trusty Wikipedia page. After Wikipedia’s brazen digital panhandling I find only a few sentences of very flattering information about Bruce Kenrick:  Notting Hill Housing (whatever’s) founder, who’s wonderful sentiment should have been immortalised but instead was abandoned and, has now decayed beyond recognition.

Seeing that there are few ways available to extract this standard but necessary information or even find whether they are simply registered as a Trust or another corporate body, I decided to call the principle. My call to the main office number was diverted to what must have been assumed to be a housing officer of mine. How rude! I find it quite insulting because it’s these same presumptions that take away the freedom of choice. Anyway, I hang up and try once again in case it’s a mistake. Same thing. I hang on and finally speak with a man who explains that my number is listed as being the housing officer attached to my number’s  property tenant, and since it was diverted to her and she’s on leave it then got diverted to him and he merely answered to assist with tenancy issues. On discovering that it was not one of the thousands of housing issues, his advice was to go to the website and find the email of the relevant department to answer my query. As far as he knew Notting Hill has various departments, including property sales. Basically ‘NOTHING’.

Okay, there’s no way to get an official answer to my question.



A point in paint







I’m still confused as to who the beneficiary of this major action is and should rightfully be. Is it Genesis Housing with Notting Hill Housing Association or the tenant? Assuming it’s the tenant, will they enjoy a more personalised interaction? You know, repairs done within 48 hours, Anti-social behavior handled within a few weeks rather than a few years, honourable servicemen that take pride in their work and don’t run off before you’ve noticed that they’ve accidentally chipped your bathtub or leave your bathroom wall tileless with a promise to return to finish on Monday morning, to never EVER return. Maybe no more contracts terminated in the middle of major jobs. Will they now handle rodents with modern methods instead of the old Karma-ignorant, Tom and Jerry cheese traps and poison or maybe they might be honest about the state of their kitchen and bathrooms they supply and update them befooooore the appliances become dangerous, rather than patching up patches.

An edited depiction of cheapsKate Davis and associates.

Please consider, these issues are just the cover on the menu before you even look at the main. These complaints are a book in itself. As extensive as they might be this is still only the account of a single household amongst many. Tenants have been known to wait six weeks to have a leaking boiler repaired, and that’s after being told that an emergency plumber had been dispatched. Admittedly we are talking about an NHH subcontractor (BSW heating) but you have to also wonder what kind of furtive deals they offer these contractors that tend to give no **** about the job they do, whether it’s done well or what time they turn up if they even appear at all.

Congruous. Gemini Verney-Dyde (LNHH), Jeremy Corbyn, and Emma Dent Coad 


Expansion & Original Mission

You don’t need too much of an imagination to know that by expanding into an even larger dysfunctional system it can only get worse. Tenants will be lost in a machine that’s getting further and further away from personally knowing who they are beyond a flat number and surname, instead placing them in an imaginary box to tick and satisfy their software. It appears that is their primary goal on the other side of the phone at the end of the conversation:  To select one out of three options agreed under duress by a mute inert soulless product, meeting the absolute minimum requirement. They’re happy :-).


I feel no threat of slander or libel to state that the repair and maintenance services retched from Notting Hill Housing Group and Genesis are nothing less than an insult to the dweller. You could actually pick a tenant’s name out of a hat for their own personal account (anyone) and you would probably call us prophets. It’s pretty clear that their ideal customer would be one from war-torn parts of the globe who (sadly) would feel quite grateful for the subpar shelter provided.

Bruce Kenrick’s mission abolished

Since the NHH wish to steer our minds towards Bruce Kenrick’s original mission let’s see the legacy he intended to leave. It seems clear that, as a priest, he attempted in his book ‘Come Out Of The Wilderness’ to reach those that he felt the church had failed. His opening quote, and the book title, clearly reflects the words of the small voice that he wished to amplify by taking the church as a system of relief to the environment of the forgotten ones who could not reach their temple and receive salvation.

So much for Kenrick’s noble intentions. Let’s look briefly at the G15’s mission which, according to their website, states that: “We work closely with central, regional, and local government; with private and voluntary partners; and with our residents to improve the quality of life for Londoners”.

Doesn’t it look like it’s written in order of importance? and of course residents, as usual, are the hindmost priority.  In light of this, the two housing groups couldn’t find a better time to reconsider their priorities and intentions as it becomes increasingly clear that their informed tenants do not want this. So much for the small voice and the tortured soul of Bruce Kenrick through his greedy inheritors.  Maybe the concerns of the smaller voices will be brought out of the wilderness into the hearts of the shareholders. How beautiful it would be if Kate Davis, who surprisingly came from humble beginnings, found that feminine sense of nurture beyond her gynoid role and did a 360˚ turn showing that NHH really gave a …. about their original mission. Without the incredibly selfless efforts of Gem and the gang at LNHH to make your home in your community secure, it’s very DOUBTFUL. 

Real Heroes.Gemini Verney-Dyde, Leona Lewis, and the gang. NHH Listen.