Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category

Guerilla Gardening

I spotted this attempt by a local resident to make the world a better place, by replacing the dogshit and fag packets around the base of some road signs with pretty plants. Applause!

More coolness here, on the Guerilla Gardening Homepage

I Prefer "Couch Surfer" to "Homeless"

couchsurfing96.JPGAlthough, technically, we are homeless as we do not have a fixed address. We are in a better position than most homeless people, however. We are the middle class of homeless: we work, we go to the cinema, we both have Oyster cards. We are lucky. My former employer has allowed us to store our severely diminished personal effects in the basement (we had to throw out about three quarters of our stuff when we got chucked out the flat: see below). And, our editing mentor has given us a place to set up a temporary office so that we can finish off our jobs for paying clients. Before, we were working from “home.”

And, we are couch surfing some very posh couches.

To back up a bit…due to a combination of factors including the rising cost of living in London, not getting paid by clients for work done and a dispute with our landlord, we found ourselves chucked out of our flat with 24 hour notice the night before leaving for Sweden to get married (I tell you, surviving this without ripping out each other’s insides gives me great hopes for this marriage).

Our plan had always been to return home to New Orleans in September for the foreseeable future, and that is still in the plan. It’s just that we will spend the month of August couch surfing, and, having not been paid by those who shall remain nameless, we will be couch surfing in New Orleans as well.

Last night and for the next three days, it’s north of Muswell Hill. Having lived in Central London for my eight years here, it is like traveling to another world. Fresh air, detached houses, forest. But, now I feel like a true Londoner…I commute on the bus for an hour each way. I find that I have more time to read now.

Image from Riding with the Window Down.

Charity Starts at Home

Living in Westminster, I get to see a lot of homeless people. It is the policy of our Borough to discourage giving cash. They might be scamming. They might use it to buy smack. I don’t know. If people feel that they have spare cash to give, then maybe they should just do what their hearts tell them to do.

I don’t give cash. I can’t spare it. Not one pence. But, I can give other stuff. Socks, for example. Sometimes I leave socks with the sleeping man down the block. Or a t-shirt that is just hanging around the flat not doing anyone any good. Sometimes I will buy some food or orange juice. One time I got yelled at by one of our local homeless for offering her orange juice. Apparently, she only wanted cash. I wanted to give her the two fingers as she was yelling at me, but I tried to remind myself that something, not the orange juice, sent her off the rails maybe years ago.

San Francisco is doing a thing called “Replate.” Leave your leftover food in a doggie bag on top of a bin. I kinda like it. There is the sanitary question, but I guess it’s better than actually eating out of the bin.

Speaking of which, I was having a chat with one of the security blokes behind Marks and Sparks on Long Acre. I asked him if a lot of food gets thrown away. “A shameless amount,” he said. I’ve heard of urban foragers who bin dive for food. It’s perfectly good food. My question is why grocers don’t do what Pret do. They give away their food for free at the end of the day.

You can’t bin dive at Long Acre, though. I’ve already checked. They’ve got security measures in place to protect all of that free food on its way to the land fill. How can we expect to save the planet and all those children starving in Africa if we are throwing away perfectly good food? Why can’t I have the free, not-even-barely-out-of-date food and then send the money that I would otherwise spend on food to Oxfam or something.

Sorry, this is such a rambling post. So stressed with the move that I can’t think clearly to edit.

Gherkin sold for £600m

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Could be a nice little pied-a-terre.

Only 60 of the biggest city bonus-winners would have to group together to buy it and turn it into a co-op.

Thames Water to Take a Hike

So it would seem that the Australian Consortium that has bought Thames water for over 8 Billion pounds are set to rise the price of water.

Great –

Yet again we are going to face huge price hikes for basic fundemental living resources.

Last week I received a 66% rise on my rent, as did the whole Council Estate I live on as we have communal heating and hot water. On the letter it was nicely stated that they realised that nobody can afford it and gave out all the numbers for the debt Association etc – however if you do not pay you will lose your flat.

Fortunately, they cannot turn off the water….

MetroBlagging

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Here’s one I’d like your help on… In September I’m starting a copywriting course in Watford, and I need to move nearer, but not too near, and for f*%ks sake not actually in the town. Probably somewhere North-West. I know absolutely nothing about what goes on up there. Say I wanted to live somewhere roughly between Baker Street and Neasden, because Watford is on the metropolitan line. And say both myself and my prospective housemates have no real money to speak of; where would people recommend?

P.S. For a bonus point — the little biro circle on this tube map where bakerloo and metropolitan cross is not mine. Who can come up with the best theory as to why the person, whoever (s)he is, drew it?

Shelter’s big red bottom

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Last week I went to an exhibition at the OXO tower featuring some of the 5000 people who have sat in Shelter’s big red chair.

Shelter is trying to get across the message that there are more than a million children suffering homelessness or bad housing in Britain today (almost half of whom live in London). They are calling on the government to make a pledge to end bad housing for the next generation of children, and, as a first step, to increase the number of new social rented homes.

This is an awareness campaign, rather than a money raising campaign–many people don’t imagine that in our beautiful and well-off country, children’s lives are being wrecked by bad housing. It goes beyond getting a decent flat: some kids can’t get a school place or register with a doctor due to their housing situation.

Register your support for the campaign at www.shelter.org.uk.

Going to the dark side (E5 vs N16)

I’ve entered the collective insanity that is the London housing market. When I moved to London, I had no interest in buying a house–too much commitment–but it’s like Stockholm Syndrome, I’ve been mentally broken down and rebuilt as a slavering home buyer, desperate to get on the property ladder.

I just can’t wait to get my bundle of sticks spraypainted gold and decorated with fairy lights, and my big art photo of beach rocks from Ikea–as seemingly prerequisties of being a young female FTB (First Time Buyer).

To feed my new addiction, I like The Rat and Mouse London property blog, and for fantasising about my future, tiny, overpriced nest, the New York small spaces design blog, Apartment Therapy.

Moveflat.com: a great flatsharing website

This is a massive shout out to moveflat.com. It’s helped me find almost every flat I’ve had in London, easily and for free. What a pleasure compared to the sub-human letting agent pond scum.

It’s a great flatsharing site; I’ve used it, mates have used it, and it’s all the good things: dead simple (a la craigslist, and a true sign of greatness in my book). It’s even got a geek manifesto, Google-style, from author Julian.

Flat shopping

I’m taking the giant leap of becoming a First Time Buyer this year, and have begun what seems to be a painfully lengthy process. On the advice of a friend, I went to Alexander Hall before flat-hunting, to get a proper opinion on how much I could afford first. It was well worth doing, and they were incredibly patient when it came to my tens of thousands of naive questions.

But now what? The same friend bailed out when it actually came to property advice – I’ve checked out a few of the websites, but there always seems to be, paradoxically, an intimidatingly large selection of nothing I really want. Maybe it’s just a lack of confidence, but I can see why so many people wait until they have a partner – it’s not about the money, it’s about the blame-sharing…

Anyone been through this? Have any advice?

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