Monday, December 29, 2008

‘God, it's so f**king Croydon!'

My previous post on Kirsty MacColl got me thinking about Croydon and one of my previous posts on the subject, Suburban Relapse. Checking out the links on the latter I realized that a key article referred to no longer exists - since it was on Tony Malone's late lamented now deleted Slightly Lost in the World blog. Anyway I've found a copy of it on the useful Internet Archive, so have decided to republish it as written by Tony in September 2005:

Ok, After my post about Brockley where I live, I decided to do one about the soulless, concrete homage to pure capitalism that occupies a rather innocent spot hidden behind Crystal Palace on the south edge of London. Croydon. Where, I am ashamed to admit, I have my design studio.

Kirsty MacColl, whom grew up in Croydon, once added it as number 5 in her top 50 things she hates, adding she hoped it would all be "blown up" someday. David Bowie said in an interview in 1999: “It was my nemesis, I hated Croydon with a real vengeance. It represented everything I didn't want in my life, everything I wanted to get away from. I think it's the most derogatory thing I can say about somebody or something: ‘God, it's so f**king Croydon!’”.

If asked my own quote on Croydon would be along the lines of: "Concrete, Suburbia and Nestle! such an uninspiring combination" or words to similar effect. After such recommendations, I decided it was not worth investigating further, but I did anyway...

Croydon, originally the seat of the Arch Bishop, and an important city in Surrey, was only officially part of London in 1965, when the London boundaries we're widened as the city grew in the post war boom, a previous expansion in boundary in the early 1900s saw areas such as Deptford and Peckham join London from leaving Surrey, so this process is nothing new.

Old Croydon is all but gone. The area was devastated during world war one and two, as it's nearby airfields and munitions factories were targeted. The 50s, 60s and 70s saw croydon reborn as a concrete new town, quickly establishing itself as a center for commerce and trade. Being located on several rail mainlines and it's "new" architecture made it attractive for large multi-national companies to settle there. (Even east croydon station is branded with "Welcome to Croydon, The home of Nestlé", as if you needed further warning.)

Croydon Council, despite being landlocked and with no more than the odd stream, still operate a LifeBoat service, maybe in case anyone should want to rebuild the once heavily used, Croydon Canal, which I'll blog about in the future, as it turns out my own back garden in Brockley was once the site of the Lock Keepers cottage 200 years ago! Unimaginable now!

Croydon's saving graces are it's fun Tram Network, my studio, and 'South End' the most densely populated area for restaurants in the UK. (over 200 in under a mile)I'm perhaps being a bit harsh, Croydon is updating itself, new facilities are being added, it's shopping is a quite good, and less busy, alternative to the west end, offering the same variety of shops and three shopping centers. Ikea is there, which perhaps is its saving grace.

It's other, and to be honest, the reason I don't mind working there, is it is home to the best cycling shop in london. Geoffrey Butler Cycles, a racing and road bike specialist. And where most of my wages end up going!


Anonymous said... don't need to link to the archived versions of the things he links to (indeed, some of them dont work - so remove the precluding archive URL if you can)

Transpontine said...

Ok I've removed the links that don't work, but left in the ones that do even if they have an archive URL - reason being that these now only exist in the archive, as the original blog has been deleted.

Anonymous said...

No no... what I mean is - leave the links to other sites in where you can, but edit them so they link to and not (which doesn't work)... if that makes sense?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Deptford, Kent rather than Surrey?

Transpontine said...

Yes, Deptford was definitely in Kent, though not sure all of the old borough of Deptford was, as it was a much larger area. The Kent/Surrey border cuts through the area - there is a boundary post on Vesta Road.

Anonymous said...

Other okay Croydon things:

Good street market
Some good restaurants eg Galicia Tapas Bar
Some nice pubs in sidestreets eg The Cricketers on West Street
Curious shops in some of the older arcades
Democratic mix of people
Electric Dreams nightclub!

Anonymous said...

home to Roberts cycles, too. (

Anonymous said...

Big IKEA too. Quite a nice drive down from Brockley.

Anonymous said...

Sid Vicious worked as a cleaner at Croydon tec befor fame claimed him and killed him

Anonymous said...

Media/club types who hate working class people who refuse to be trendy (and also despise those who don't, but at least can make money out of them) seem to have adopted Croydon and sometimes Sutton as favoured references. E.g. Popbitch, which overlaps with Urban 75 socially.

I can confirm that the hatred and contempt is returned (when we show any interest in this particular faction of our enemies, this is!)

I have long held the view that the culture of middle class people and professional and rich people of all descriptions is principally based on two ideas: 1) the workers smell, and 2) the workers f*ck like rabbits.

Your socialist orientation does not sit well with all this fanboy and celeb stuff...


Transpontine said...

Yes, you are right that anti-Croydon rants are sometimes not very sophisticated code for anti-working class sentiments (see for instance disgusting Chavscum and the notion of the 'Croydon facelift'). But also there is a critique of the suburbs from (often) working class people who refuse to accept what they see the narrow horizons imposed on them.

As for the 'celeb/fun boy' stuff, when I laboured under the situationist curse and agonised about liking the products of the capitalist leisure industry I would probably have agreed with you. Now I tend to see that stance as just another avant-garde twist on bourgeois disdain for popular culture.

Anonymous said...

We disagree about culture. Myself I've never agonised about my attitude, which has been constant all my life and arose long before I'd heard of the Situationists. Of course most people into the latter now are well into culture and posing. But let's leave it anyhow.

I think seeing the big city lights as providing wider horizons is just as passive as it would be to stay in the suburbs and accept the horizons there (albeit more schizoid). There are people who make their own horizons in all sorts of places.

Re 'Croydon facelift' and that crap, the same sort of anti-working class hatred was evident in the books on "Crap Towns". Notwithstanding a few good bits (although often repeated) in those books. But there are some true things in many vile books.

It's cool to go on about how the so-called "white working class" are Neanderthal racist scum.

So how come the first black councillors in Britain were elected in working class London wards, with one becoming the first black mayor?

Re 'chavs'. I recently went round the register offices in a few boroughs to do family-tree research, and whilst most places the staff were very nice and helpful, they were absolute shits in Lambeth (Brixton). The guy who came out after I complained about someone else's attitude was whinging about how they were 'under-staffed', all in a sarcastic and contemptuous tone of voice toward myself. I said something about how they must have a lot of old records because in the past the borough had a very big population. Not sure how it compares with today, but there are certainly parts which had highly-concentrated working class populations which today don't. He sneered, "Yes, that was because of the all chavs", followed up by an attempt at complicity: "...but I didn't say that". Funny guy, huh?

If he'd said "niggers" he'd get the sack, but of course the meaning and attitude are exactly the same.

He should be lucky I'm not his boss, because I'd have sacked the f*cker on the spot.

Curiously I was thinking how he was coming across exactly like a bullshitting estate agent or second-hand car salesman who chose such a conman-parasite type of occupation whilst originating from a working class background.