‘Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.‘
If I were a little more ignorant, this writing would have been entitled Big Brother or something as clichéd as that but, I find ‘Big’ is too large a word to attribute to a mind so small. It’s a mind that would entertain the petty ambition of extracting information from those who are unaware of the consequences of giving it, under the guise of convenience.
It sounds like the mischievous ‘Little Brother’, so called by the native Americans, who were also duped into giving up information for convenience in the 15th century. That didn’t end up going too well at all.
I pick up MY phone to call a friend, I’m trying to tell him I’ll be late. Instinctively, I look for an envelope or some other icon on the phone menu showing a possible missed call, something or other. I see a caution sign, I’m thinking maybe the battery needs replacing or there’s a serious software issue. Naturally, I explore and the alert reads ‘Enable Google Play services.’ Really, I must? I thought I’d ignore it but it kept coming back.
After spending precious time that I did not plan to, I still couldn’t disable it. Totally frustrated I eventually give in to the pressure as I realise, not that it won’t stop but it can’t stop, it’s an alert that’s not designed to be turned off. Does this sound like a typical event in your smart (er than you) phone life?
Nowadays this type of android-human master-slave interaction gets me more and more frustrated. When I think about the number of details I’m forced to provide just to open an online trading account: email verification, card details, text verification messages, addressed utility bill and passport scans, I often think about who’s collecting all this information. Behind the request, there is no face yet we have come to accept this. We send verified personal data to unknown sources everyday.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s theage of uncertainty, overuse of the word ‘Terrorism’ and common sense gone digital. If what the astronomers tell us is true, we’ve moved light years away from the cosmic location we were at just four years ago and you can kinda tell. Yet Mario’s key cutters, Poundland, and Tesco’s all seem to have remained in the same location as I look through the eyes of a child.
The said amount of time has passed since we shared, right here on Urban Dandy, how the natural falling of a tree on our block inspired the locals to spill out onto the streets and finally make themselves known.
I don’t know if it’s time, frustration or just karma for me, but it seems that the neighbourly thing is at an all time low. The same eleven-year-olds that used to humbly greet me on my way out the door are now fifteen and just about neighbourly enough to replace those kind words with a nod and an ice grill and if I’m really lucky it may also be the waft of urban incense of the green variety. I can’t tell you how many times my doorstep has been littered with rolling papers, Subway sandwich wrappers, rappers and pitiful young girls, a few months into puberty and possibly a couple of years from single motherhood. They would exchange a type of loud poetry of the sailor type among themselves and upon any young ears that are unfortunate enough to be near their fruitless performance.
I remember the gradual build up to this and the times when my suspicions of drug activity were vague and unsubstantiated, but I never expected to be welcomed home with an offer to buy drugs on my own doorstep.
Yep, it’s certainly a different time and place in space and you’d easily be forgiven if you don’t remember the tree that considerately descended on the very same block, even though, at the time, it was the most activity we had seen and the main focus of conversation for months. Now two years on, teams of mopeds turn the streets into Silverstone as they wheelie up the track block dropping off their illegal supplies under the diffident noses of the police, the housing association, the moon and even the mid-day sun, for that matter.Rumours spread of the neighbours’ children having knife tussles in the street and of warning shots being fired in a place that celebrities could never imagine while they strut with all their pretense, trying to ignore the echoes of their own name. It’s hard to believe that one area could support such opposing lifestyles. But Notting Hill is such a place.
The local news is sometimes national news, depending. It could be about the actress Eve strolling through her new manor, a sixteen-year-old laying in a pool of blood, Rita Ora doing a photo shoot, or a mob of eleven police restraining a wannabe thug kid. Considering the later; this not yet man will no doubt only use this encounter as a badge to show the peer group that he has achieved a Netflix version of manhood. Meanwhile, the Beckhams will do the school drop off oblivious to this. But all of this in one stretch of concrete.
These are not incidents but everyday life. It’s like a kind of trash bag made of diamonds. It’s odd knowing that Princes William and Harry went to the school up the street and just feet away from that ambitious parent attending a school viewing, hoping to give their child the same Prince Harry experience they may experience the polar opposite. It’s also a Big Issue magnet, a haven for the more ambitious of the homeless. I know this because it took me two years and some strong language to be rid of one such aggressive Big Issue seller and to have him accept that I was a regular guy. He eventually dissolved our tacit contract and moved on to more supportive folk to maintain his structure.
Home and Away
Elsewhere in the world there are at least a few miles between these classes. I find the choice to park in the centre of a spot that could hold two vehicles snooty and sub-civilised, but no less churlish than maneuvering a 60 lb leather sofa into a parking space in front of your own home, but who cares…Damn right it’s an environmental crime but not to be declared in Orwellian style with the hope of profit, but just to dispense a call for the raising of one’s personal standards, empathy and maybe a little shame. Yeah, the mice come out knowing that the neighbourhood ugly gives them hope that there will be a serving for at least four when they carelessly drop pizza and other food items on their own doorstep, but who gives a..?
The bigger picture
Truth is, beneath all of this is a fight between two demogra-folks, both too smart to actually realise they’re in a war over a silly name. I’m not sure who named Ladbroke Grove Notting Hill but the two gangs have both been co-living on the same turf for some time now. As Notting Hill gets written into the history books, Ladbroke Grove makes its own history reminding us of the area’s past like an immortal storyteller. Immortal because, much to the disappointment of some locals, it just won’t go away. This neverending story is what opened the doors to make it Notting Hill, (Ladbroke Grove or whatever you choose to call it) Marvin Gaye, The Sex Pistols, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, The Rolling Stones and all.
Rough Trade Records started out in Ladbroke Grove and without moving an inch has become Notting Hill’s musical pride and, somewhat organic, record shop. Yet who remembers when they sold NY W.B.L.S. radio mix-tapes and when people sprayed the bricks with Sham 69? How about, graffiti artist Futura 2000 knocking around with the Clash or Queen Latifa searching the crates for her little-known single?
Synonymously the neighbouring food equivalent would be The Grain Shop that still lives opposite Tavistock Square on Portobello Road, Notting Hill, or is it Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove? Even regular healthy food got caught in this name politics and was changed to organic without its consent. Even though The Grain Shop still services the area for their food needs, the name of the food they offer, although it’s mostly organic, refuses to boast, because unlike most other things their attitudes have not changed. But you would have to remember Ladbroke Grove to know that. To know that the owners care more about the nutrition that they provide for their community than giving it a fancy name.
Then there’s The Tabernacle: it still sits in Powis Square but seems to be wanting to slide up the hill rather than down the grove. Thankfully it is regulated by culture. Every time a hundred pound designer Champagne creeps onto the drinks menu a Jerk Chicken wrestles it down to the ground, sometimes it’s a saltfish fritter fighting a salad or even an unexpected Chicken Saint Lucia being drowned by the soup of the day.
Yep, most of us are just casualties of a war of status and as soon as Notting Hill recognises that it’s Ladbroke Grove is the moment that Ladbroke Grove will see that it is Notting Hill. Gentrification will then become an organic process with the participation of locals. The area’s potential will then be clear and we can concentrate on bigger things like what the fuxit our exit from the EU actually means and how we need each other more than ever, NOW.
Whether it’s your micro neighbour or your macro neighbour we need constructive communication and not snobbery. Coming to accept that there is not, and has never been, a middle class may be a little hard to swallow for some but for God’s sake get over it quick because at this time if you’re not excelling to new financial altitudes whereby work is but a choice, then your choice of neighbours is not a choice at all. It’s Russian roulette, only now there are three slugs in the chamber of the proverbial gun to your head. It’s easier, far easier for somebody to complain about their co-inhabitants rather than to seek resolve with each other. Whether you dropped down from Knightsbridge with high expectations or you have never left the area and cannot quite grasp the gentrific change, it’s time to talk; otherwise, the government (or foreign corporate interests to be precise) will be only too happy to play your friendly mediator.
If you’re like me and have lived in any of the other communities that are globally accepted as parallels, you’ll know that there is not another area on earth like this one. New York, Paris, and Los Angeles all boast of multiculturalism but even as diverse as they are, the local cultures have enough distance between them to never meet. Not so with us, just look at the size of our streets, somebody sneezes, you feel it across the road. We live in a very claustrophobic space of scraping buses and folding wing mirrors but with that comes the unique advantage of having to interact and survive within each other’s world, without each other in this little village. It makes sense for us to finally define it ourselves with the help of those who bring their foreign experiences if they are only willing to introduce themselves and share rather than seize real land, by any other corporate term.
I believe that on this third rock, in this western hemisphere, in this Royal Borough, while the world divides itself in the hope of the government submitting a plan for re-uniting it we have the potential to become a beacon to the world but we have to stop the selfishness and start participating, preserving, embracing and becoming curious about our homies, and each other’s welfare not farewell.
Dedicated to: *The Krew: Shaban, Drew, Kevin Wez, Nicky and Jeff (RIP). Song: The Escapades of Futura 2000 – Futura 2000 and The Clash
After months of planning, The Kitchen Table Collective, who previously gave us 1x Tab Breakfast, poached egg, no mushroom 1x sides, sausage: New Stories from the Tabernacle, have expressed a touching and thought provoking exhibition through the eyes of immigrants. The incredibly diverse quintet of Artists including Emma Mudgway, Claire Tipy and Alexia Villard successfully gave us a very personal look at the alien experience in the UK through their art. ‘We Are’ can be seen today at The Ugly Duck Gallery at 47-49 Tanner Street in Tower Bridge.
We are here until the afternoon collecting great thoughts and insights to see what it feels like to be an immigrant.
We’re going in.
Claire Tipy and Sarah Tilotta’s collaboration, ‘Where Do You Think I Was Born’, seen in motion. Each actor contributed their own heartfelt monologue and drew us totally in. Continue reading →
In this era of gentrification, Urban Dandy was cheered by a visit to Vinyl Café on Portobello, which has grown out of the owner’s hugely successful vinyl stall on Portobello market that also imports vinyl from all over the world. We thoroughly recommend a visit. Here’s why…
We arrive at 9:00 and are greeted with The Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background. The chef comes from the kitchen to turn down the music and agrees to replay ‘Candela’ for us. He and Tom agree they know each other from somewhere, somehow. Familiar faces.
The business owner Jake arrives at 9.15, offers us drinks and, before we begin our questioning, Jake explains the importance of getting the right vibe with food and music.
Jake: ‘The Mouth is the gateway to the soul isn’t it? It’s all sensory, eyes, mouth, nose…
UDL: What was your intention in opening the café?
Jake: To make as much money as possible (laughs). I’m just kidding.
To create somewhere where people can come to eat good food, where they can feel relaxed. It’s a people place, they can turn up in their slippers and hang out, they can bring their kids. I just wanted to create something cool. I want it to be genuine, authentic and to add something to the area. We source 95% of our food from the market.
UDL: Where does the music come in? Is it your first love?
Jake: (Instantly) No! Family is, always. I have three girls and a wife. They’re my first love, music next. I was an artist, I was flown out to LA for two months to record. Craig Kallman from Atlantic records heard my voice and said he needed to take a meeting with me. I was supposed to go back to LA but my first child was born so, you know, a child needs a father. You know how the music business goes, one day you’re in demand, the next you’re not. I love my kids, even though they drive me insane (laughing). My middle one is a great actress…
UDL: What did you do in music? Sing? Rap?
Jake: I sang and wrote, like Soulful Pop. If I had time again I’d do it completely differently. Rather than let the business manipulate you, you have to manipulate the business.
How is business at Vinyl Café so far?
Jake: We’re doing okay, it’s not even six months yet and we’re okay. I have a Canadian business partner also; Alison King. There are six people working on the food and one person on the vinyl. You need people to know how to sell it. People know me, actually I heard someone shouting “Jake, Jake” the other day and it was Brian Eno. He was like ‘Jake where you been?’ I was at the café. Brian is a down to earth guy, he’s a positive influence for people in Portobello Road, he’s one of us.
UDL: This spot was a French Bakery right, but not for long. What did they do wrong?
Jake: They knocked everyone and he didn’t run it professionally. Well who’s to say I’m running this professionally? Time will tell. I have the next three months planned out and it’s fine because I need the challenge. I’m running this and the stall too, to give the stall up in the week would be tough because that’s my bread and butter.
UDL: What about the gentrification in the area?
Jake: Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. There seems to be a disparity in the area…no there doesn’t seem to be a disparity, there is a disparity. You either have an ASBO or you’re middle class. If you look at what’s classed as working class now, it’s actually a social underclass. Unless you’re a millionaire, you can’t afford to buy in this area any more.
UDL: How does this affect your business plan?
Jake: I don’t really have a business plan. Word of mouth is the way because I can talk but I can’t see this space from your eyes and I try to listen as much as I can. Even if they say something negative I try to take the positive. Right now I’m playing around with changing a few things. I’m thinking about the next round of funding.
Some ten workers walk into the shop and fill the bigger table next to us. Jake starts talking to them, he tells them to make themselves comfortable. One of the men says ‘as long as you have red wine’. Jake responds ‘We have red and white and a lovely Cava’ and they continue in this fast witted style in a few more exchanges in which Jake is totally at ease.
Jake: You see, interaction. You have to interact, this is what I do. When you have a brain and a mouth you can talk to anyone.
UDL: Tell us about your staff
Jake: I’ve hired a small team who love what they’re doing. The kitchen is vital. I’ve gone through six chefs in 16 weeks in order to put together the right team.
Jake: I’m not an ego maniac. I’m not Chairman Mao, but there’s an output expected. The team I’ve got now, they’re foodies, they’re happy to be in the kitchen, they’re not just doing ‘a job’. With food and with music, you can do it for love or for money, there’s a difference. Now, if you can combine love and money…
UDL: Tell us more about how you see this place
Jake: Life experience has brought us to where we are now, and that’s reflected. We don’t want to be Google, or some other massive company. But if we can last the first 12 to 18 months, and have a good product, then familiarity will breed comfort. It can also breed contempt (laughing) so I have to ask myself what I can do to create something even more comfortable and more profitable?
One of the group of men asks Jake about a rare Beech Boys box set for sale. The item is one of a run of only 5000 made. Another of the party declares his love for acid jazz, of which Jake is knowledgeable. As the conversation fades, a Miles Davis Jazz tune fills the Vinyl Café. Classy music for a charismatic café. Great food, too, and competitive prices. Well worth a regular visit.
Urban Dandy would like to bring to your attention the loss of a beloved community member. Stand 52 is not really what you would have in mind when asking for a half a pound a grapes but if you are from the area you would have used stand 52 many times.
Tommy from stand 52 Portobello Market, for some is Portobello Market, having supplied us with fresh fruit and veg for years. I can say from experience that he was one of the faces that you got used to seeing every morning on the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent, arranging that lovely coloured nutrition in delicious order offering to quench your thirst and satisfy your body’s need for vitamins and minerals.
It’s interesting that with all the supermarkets popping up here there and everywhere, the question of local loyalty is underlined. I must admit within my own experience there is some guilt as I have a very specialized diet for health reasons, but that said I do what I can where I can and would only hope that most like myself will be also sad to see the end of a Portobello market legend.
Here is a man that took only two weeks off work each year. This is a very rare form of dedication. As noble as this may be, sadly it took the dreaded cancer to force a year’s break from the market.
In a brief conversation with Maureen, Tommy’s wife, I learned that his dedication and commitment to us as customers went way beyond Portobello Market and into his own domestic environment as when the question of marriage occurred Tommy was reluctant to take time off on a Saturday, so we should all feel privileged standing in the way of their wedding vows.
Portobello Market is made up of some tremendous locals just like Tommy who really tend to smile through everything they face including the decrease in turnover based on their goliath super-chain competitors, yet they continue.
Even those who didn’t know you knew your presence, work and commitment. On behalf of the family, extended family and every other market trader we say Rest In Peace Tommy Kane.
‘There was a time when earthlings were pure creators and not really concerned with external opinions to express. There was a feeling of attachment to the source and a comfort in expression. Unimpressed by visitors like me because we were closer in thought until that thing happened. Earthlings lost their minds, their confidence and self-control, it was given over to external things.
It still baffles me how this can be your norm today.
The soul reason for all of this loss was fear. Humans are still creators but all creation is born out of fear and no longer from love. How many regions are in wars from fear of being invaded or relationships for fear of being alone? The truth is invasion is very unlikely if you are communicating but you will always be alone and all you can do is embrace it for the great thing that it is. When humans can learn to think again, outside of the metaphorical box it becomes clear that being alone means being al-one….’