Friday, 25 September 2015

LIFE IN LONDON

You knew what you were getting yourself into - or so you thought. As you plunge into your new life the realisation slowly dawns that the abstract concept of independent life is far different to the reality. No longer do you have the luxury of spending money on small indulgences - every purchase from Aldi’s own Coco Pops to your next Oyster top-up will be preceded by a five-minute breakdown and succeeded by at least another five minutes of justification. Gone is the notion of a peaceful night’s sleep, replaced instead by the jeering cogs of your mind which kick into warp speed at midnight to helpfully remind you of the laundry you forgot to remove from the machine.

Next comes the lack of social life. I used to be one of those people that resented cancelled plans or. even worse, those other people that would turn down a social life to stay at home and catch up on their sleep. It turns out those people had the right idea - after working a 50-hour week the thought of a quiet night cuddled up with Netflix is, shockingly, disgustingly, more appealing than a night out on the town. Living in London has been an eye-opening experience - as a young, naive student my eyes would light up at the promise of London Living Wage, a seemingly staggering £9.15 per hour. It was only once I arrived in the glamorous capital itself that I realised that this elusive payrise was just another promise made by the government, another promise which appears to have been ignored by the vast majority of retail conglomerates. At one point I was offered £6.50 per hour to work for a high-street food company - effectively a step down from my previous wage in Birmingham in a city that was roughly twice as expensive. This promise was justified by the fact that the chain was based by the O2 arena and, therefore, there would apparently be a strong chance that I’d meet Madonna as she came in for a post-concert bento box. 

This trend for weak justification extends further upon being faced with the rental market. All of you are probably no strangers to the articles proliferated online which claim that for the same price as a two-bed in Mayfair you could buy an entire private island. You can live in a shed in someone’s Zone 3 living room for a mere £525 per month, bills excluded. One estate agent took me to a house viewing near the Docklands and, after greeting me, shook my hand, subsequently got distracted with pleasantries and stepped in a pile of dog shit directly outside my prospective new home. Her exact follow-up was “I’m sorry, this area is disgusting. Shall we go inside?” Again, this appears to be the rule as opposed to the exception. Even listings on Spareroom are actually headlined “SHIT ROOM MUST GO SOON” - clearly PR is wasted on these makeshift landlords. 


There are an abundance of articles that claim that the youth of today are unhappier, less content and more restless than ever. Depression rates are at an all-time high and, against the backdrop of a Conservative government that swiftly dismisses mental health as a trivial problem, it seems that nobody’s getting any cheerier. We live in a right-wing society in which the economy takes pride of place as the rest of us struggle to keep up with the billionaire businessmen that have a stranglehold on the property market. Lack of security cripples youngsters in cities all over the country as we’re confronted with swathes of headlines declaring us ‘the rental generation’. Gentrification is forcing youngsters further away from the city centre as rent prices creep up at a rate directly proportionate to the number of ‘pop-up restaurants’ that appear in any given area.

But all of this is OK, it’s all bearable, because you moved here to escape the humdrum village life and pursue the career of your dreams, right? Again - not quite the case. If this is your argument it’s likely you’re here to pursue a career in some kind of creative field - writer / journalist / musician etc. If this is the case and you have wealthy parents, you’ll probably survive. However, if you don’t happen to have the randomly-selected good fortune of parental financial security, you can look forward to 30-hour weekends working two jobs to cover rent while your internship pays you barely enough to scrape together a meal deal at lunchtime. Even when your internship ends the chances of gaining employment with a salary high enough to survive is slim to none - as someone in the industry once put it, “you’ll probably have to supplement”. 

After all these factors have been taken into consideration, it seems unsurprising that many of us look to nightlife for an answer, an escape. Use of hard drugs is as common as a quick fag break in London, where dealers openly approach you on the street to ask your drug of choice. I fondly remember an incident a few weeks ago involving a drag queen in a pink mesh bodysuit and two hefty bags of cocaine tucked neatly next to her scrotum. Who can really blame anybody for looking for an escape? We see refugees washed up dead on beaches on a daily basis, we see terrorists regularly indulging in violent beheading sprees and knife and gun crime in London occur on a large scale on a daily basis. We see racism, misogyny and homophobia are still extremely pertinent topics of discussion and, despite the progress being made, it seems that modern society remains as dystopian as the one sketched out by George Orwell in ‘Animal Farm’.


The point of this post is not only to rant. It is mainly to rant, but it is not only to rant. It is to underscore the key problem that most creative youngsters face - I know I should move to London to pursue my dreams, yet I cannot afford to move to London to pursue my dreams. Top-tier employment is still clustered in the capital, the largest and most influential companies in the majority of sectors are still based in London and wealth is still unevenly distributed in London. Youngsters like myself (and basically everyone I’ve met in London) are left struggling and often left behind. We either convince ourselves that spending yet another £9000 on education is the answer or we take day jobs which demand so much time that we have little to no time to actually produce new content. Essentially we become small, insignificant participants in the vast rat race that is London life, running ourselves into the ground to pay our way. Personally, I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing and, if you’re reading this and you feel you can identify, then you probably don’t either. 

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