Acre Lane, London SW9


Acre lane? Jesus, that road is like a bad hangover. Sweating off another night of cheap larger down the Patrick Hamilton. Misdirected separated males. Litter swirling into the tatty hedges. Fluff from the laundry eddies round the Hopeless Wanker’s beer garden. Doesn’t make the place feel any cleaner though.

I was pleased to get off of that road. Living in a decrepit bedsit. Where all the divorcees wind up – after they blew their one and only shot at it – ended up where they were always meant to be.

Sealing the ill fitting window with plastic sheeting in Winter. Old Cypriot landlord with a bashed in bonce – and a crafty peasant wife who despised him. Lived in a semi further up the hill. Can’t get a fix on it. Prison. All that false bonhomie of the concerned landlord.

At least I had a mate there. One thing for bedsits – you’ve got your own place you can seal yourself away in. But then you can knock on your mate’s door – go for a drink in one of the forgotten estate pubs. All cleansed now – of course. Though irritatingly for the developers the proles are still around – marooned. Acre Lane impervious to gentrification – like some stain that will never come out. Needs a fleet of bulldozers – a second fire of London. Or some come kind of neutron bomb that only leaves the 18th century houses standing.

Would rather live like that than live in the burbs doing a despicable straight job. Though turned out that none of them were quite as safe and guaranteed as advertised at the time.

Brixton – you get used to it. But then sometimes your driven through it and you think – f*** what was that! All that street life. Not like anywhere else. Used to sit in the Spudulike next to the tube and peoplewatch. Most diverse people watching you can get anywhere. I remember an African woman walking along balancing telephone directories on her head.

There is a moment in time – when fate takes hold of you. I had a straight choice between a chance somewhere elsewhere in the country – or a council flat in Brixton. I took the council flat.

Quiet – off the High street.

Tiny flat but a little balcony. Trees and sunsets. When no f*****r was playing their music – it was as peaceful as the countryside there.

Had a neighbour – Len. Len had nobody but his dog and his pugnacious attitude. He was alright though. He had a stroke – me and another neighbour visited him in hospital. When another stroke killed him me and the same neighbour were the only ones at the funeral.

Funny to think that probably only me and the neighbour ever think of him at all.

Len used to live in the flat I got. He fell out with the neighbour on the other side. Well he was an HIV positive heroin addict. He’d broken into the flat that I took (that Len used to occupy). Gashed his leg on the window as he tried to climb in and steal Len’s whiskey bottle full of pennies. You could see the oxidised blood. You could see the guy around Brixton on his crutches. I put security glass in – nearly put in bars as well.

That’s Brixton for you. Some of the highest street crime in Europe. For a while my block became a known nightime haven for the lowest of the junkies. Junkies who came specifically from Portugal and Spain because they knew this was the place to score yourself to death – cheap and with your companeros. One of these guys lived – LIVED – in the squalid bin room. Part of you wanted to beat him up with a baseball bat – the other half felt pity.

Some nights you’d get home and find them on the stairwell. Prostitutes, junkies. One night two of them had even dragged a mattress in there. Kitkat silver wrappers in the morning, strange notes and ravings on scraps of paper. Got the sense of a intense life out there. Outside your locked door. Why do drunks always argue? What matters that much when you are in that state? More police, gates and cameras sorted it. Now all you have to worry about is when the boys are shooting you they might miss and hit you.

There’s a lot of cime in Brixton – but then again if someone goes for you know its for a reason – for money. There’s some purpose to it. They are not going to set upon you because your face doesn’t fit. Look like you know where you are going – preferably the library – and don’t get in anyone’s way. No problems. Never had any.

Good boozers too – all gone now mind.

Places where what never happens – happens – where every kind of person mixes. The Irish, the locals, the idealists, the crusties, the trendies, the lost, the blown in from god knows where. A band and a fight every night (not a real fight – just the drink talking and the bouncer had them out of the door one minute later). Brady’s aka the Railway.

Now closed and if it ever re-opens it will be all artful and self conscious stripped pine, and resident DJs and all that self-satisfied anytown crap. And then later the pale imitation of the Queens Head – tho a pale imitation of Brady’s was still pretty good.

Then there’s the Weatherspoon crew. In there at 9am. All hale fellow well met – like their tycoons in the first class lounge on the QE2. Talking about everything other than the despair that’s dripping off them. Comparing booze deals. If the salvation army ran boozers – they would be Weatherspoons.

London’s floated off now – World city number one. Brixton some kind of particular intense wormhole where people get sucked in from across the globe. Brixton takes it in its stride.

All that energy on the pavements, railways rattling over head, traffic streaming in and out of central London.

Alfie, waking down coldharbour lane. The morning after.

Planes going over like prayer beads.

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