I didn’t even have my shots

loughborough estate 2 by secretlondon123. Click pic for link.

There’s something to be said in the notion of the academic ivory tower, and that’s why I particularly like geography: you can’t go back in time to look at history, you can’t jump inside an equation, but you can definitely go out and pound the streets of the city and see geography as it actually is. There’s a lot of value in just walking around, even more so than driving places to look at them (which I admittedly do enjoy), even more so when it’s somewhere new. Studying social changes is all very well, but if I’m locked up in the (almost literal) ivory towers of the Maughan library, I’m not really seeing much gentrification, or what have you. I’m almost too familiar with North London, as well, so taking a trip into an unknown bit of London is always a treat.

Neil Smith‘s idea of a ‘revanchist‘ frontier in which the middle classes are aggressively taking back the city has never sat that comfortably with me. Yet there’s times when you can almost see the frontier in the middle of a part-renovated, part-dilapidated Victorian villa, and the struggles between all sorts of different types of people, motivation and interest makes itself apparent.

I visited the Lambeth Archives today, in an incident which I can only take as a lesson in calling ahead. It meant taking the train to Loughborough Junction, a part of the city I’d never been near, let alone been to. It’s all quite different from my weekend exploits in suburbia, and had that South London taste to the air: high– and low-rise blocks surround cold, angular roads until, it seems, gentrified terraces cut a swathe across the deprivation. Of course, that’s just the perception: the high-rises replaced much of the terracing, which wasn’t always so salubrious, and was an improvement on the old stock when it was built. The renovation of the old houses therefore succeeded the housing provision, an imposition of free market logic onto the mass social provision of Lambeth (see Butler and Robson on this). I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m a Bevanite in terms of social provision, and although these blocks are MacMillan-era, mass housing on the cheap, it’s still somewhat grating to see the juxtaposition on Minet Rd between these stark estates and the immediate gentrification of the next block.

Thankfully, there’s life to this part of London yet, and whatever the lack of social mix on the gentrification frontier, Brixton still hums cheerfully nearby, and I found maybe the best lamb pattie I’ve ever had, which is really all I can ask for on a day out.


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