Thursday, November 25, 2004

So I’ve moved house. My new abode is in the merry borough of Islington, North London. Which officially makes me a beardy, Guardian-reading, sandal wearing liberal. Little does it matter that I never wear sandals and aspire to never sport a beard of any kind whatsoever – excepting perhaps for any cool looking goatee type apparitions.

Perhaps my opinions of facial growth and footwear will subtly change over the coming months as who one is appears to be defined by where one lives. Over the coming days I will be carefully scrutinising newsagents for evidence: I am expecting to see large piles of Guardian and Independent newspapers and a tiny to pathetic collection of copies of the Daily Mail and Express on the shelves. I will be scanning shoe shops for sandals; chemists for beard-treatment products; supermarkets for tofu; grocers for organic greens; and of course streets for bicycles scooters.

That geography can affect personality is fairly easy to spot. Go to many of the commuter towns on the inside rim of the Home Counties circling London (or indeed run down areas of central London) and do some chav spotting. These individuals are so alike that it takes significant effort and application to talk to one and find the true human being underneath. Their souls are encased beneath shells of tracksuits (rather sportingly entitled “shell suits”), oversized trainers, ridiculous looking baseball hats and too often white jumpers emblazoned with the logo of some awful clothes manufacturer. During the winter evenings the females like to advertise how hot they really must be by exposing as much of themselves as possible to the cooling frost. This might sound like gross over-stereotyping, but having lived in such an area for a not inconsiderable time I can assure you the stereotypes are unfortunately justified. And many chavs – and I have seen this all too often – are responsible for much of what is now politically termed as ‘antisocial behaviour’.

Now being a softy liberal I have only sympathy for these unfortunate individuals who are after all only born into the British equivalent of the American red neck situation. I now feel duty bound to say that if only we weren’t so antagonistic and ready to judge these kids they would not feel the need to react like a horse fed with a large flagon of Tabasco Sauce. They really do need their problems to be understood by others. How isolated they must feel in the land between urban and rural Britain – how symbolic their geographical position is of their lives in modern British society.

Of course if you travel from chav country in either direction towards or away from London you will encounter Tory Country. Enter a newsagent’s on a Sunday morning before the young paperboys have collected their morning’s work and gasp at the mighty pile of Mail on Sunday’s stretching to the ceiling. As a penniless teenager I was employed to do a paper round in such an area. The leafier the road, the greater the percentage of Mail readers – I even distributed one daily to the ex-Arsenal manager Bertie Mee, who in 1971 delivered the league and cup double to Highbury.

What would these people say about chavs? (I discourage you from attributing the late great Mr Mee to any labels as dealing with individuals would clearly be neither accurate nor fair and I’m trying to stereotype wildly here. He did give me a fiver at Christmas once as well.)

I suspect it would be a gloomy view possibly connected with a sense of decomposing societal and family values allied with an incompetent judicial system.

Thinking about it, I have lived in all these areas. Everyone knows in reality that these places are in fact veritable rainbows of political thought and only loosely pertain to my extremely basic pigeonholing. But the point is, now I’m in Islington I have to philosophise wildly about the world around me until I too hide behind the shell of a beard and possibly a side parting.

Question: So have I found my political home in trendy liberal Islington…?

Analysis: I have been rambling meaninglessly about politics with no discernable direction.

Conclusion: So yes it seems like it.

Analysis: But I have enjoyed thoroughly slating and mocking common folk.

Conclusion: So perhaps not.

Analysis: All of which goes to show I’m confused about my politics.

Conclusion: So actually yes.

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