It’s truly crazy to see how much London has changed since I first set foot there as a student twenty-six years ago. I must confess that I loved living in Central London and rarely ventured beyond its boundaries for the first two years of my studies.
Today, I came across images of The Lighthouse building, located opposite King’s Cross station, on the island at the convergence of Euston, Pentonville and Gray’s Inn roads. Significant to me, because I lived in that building 1997-98. Nowadays, the building houses very expensive, modernist Landmark office spaces, restaurants and bars.
When I lived there, as a tenant of a Christian housing association, it was stuffed full of very grotty, filthy, mice-infested flats, that would shake whenever a tube train rattled far beneath us. Unpleasant in many ways, but a convenient location as a student at SOAS, a twenty-minute walk away. I remained there until the last months of 1998, when friends rescued me from the harassment of a crazy evangelist, and helped relocate me to Waterloo.
The whole of the King’s Cross area was pretty dodgy when I lived there. Now I see it has been gentrified like so many other once rundown areas of the city. Property developers seem to have a policy of colluding with local councils to move the poor out of London. Certainly, we know of many council tenants incentivised to move out to Slough and Aylesbury.
Central London was my first home when I moved down south. I have fond memories wandering the streets of Holborn, day and night. I’d gladly spend a day doing the same even now; any chance for a reunion with old friends from those glory days. Ealing, my second home, after a brief spell away. We would have remained there had we been able to afford to.
Constantly we are reminded that nothing stays the same. Neither the places nor the faces. Neither the buildings, nor our cultures. In a quarter of a century, absolutely everything has changed. I’m as surprised by the changes to our lives, as to the spaces I once roamed. Change is inevitable, but it still perturbs.