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Changing Times

by Jeremiad1971 

Posted: 26 March 2007
Word Count: 705

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Clapham Junction has an intriguing amount of estate agents, most of them conveniently located near the station and perfectly placed for local amenities. At the last count, there was about fifteen, decorated in modern style, complete with on-road parking and making the best use of the available space.

There has to be a host of reasons why Clapham Junction attracts them as, although a lot of them were forced to re-locate in the collapse of the early nineties, they have established themselves with a series of conversions.

The first clue is Clapham Junction’s history.

As Battersea began to develop from marshy land, and Lavender Hill slowly surrendered its perfume cultivation, the area gradually became associated with the industrial poor.

The village Clapham, a mile to the east, was altogether more genteel. Having already decided on the location for their new station, the railway companies, to a man, voted to name it “Clapham Junction”, even though it was in Battersea.

They did not want any association with ghastly urban grime monkeys.

To paraphrase the mantra from Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams (“an expansive patch of highly desired land, suitable for musing, schmoozing and snoozing”) spin it and they will come.

With their tendency to demarcate adjacent parts of London pavement with elaborate and implausible phonetics, so that class conscious Brits do not compound their error of using the word “serviette” by spluttering out non-U vowels in their address, estate agents must have felt misty eyed when they ended their pilgrimage in Clapham Junction, possibly chanting “connotation, connotation, connotation”

They are able to offer a range of housing, across a range of prices, none low, in diverse areas on top of each other. As long as the punter can stump up the chunk of change, the estate agents can provide homes for old Oxford graduates who would have liked to have been called the Mayor of London or old lags proud to be referred to as Stevie The Snout.

By describing the area as “Bat-ter-say-a” estate agents were able to both ease levels of middle class anxiety and boost totals of working class mockery.

Sadly, but maybe not surprisingly, those mirth inducing days have gone and some areas are now indistinguishable from those of nearby Chelsea.

It was not always thus.

Up The Junction, a film released in 1968, starring Dennis Waterman and Suzy Kendall, depicts very different social platforms. A girl from Chelsea tries to alleviate boredom by slumming it in Battersea. Nearly forty years on, the premise appears laughable and the Junction appears devoid of divisions.

The nearby Northcote road has a shop called “The Uncommon Touch”, flogging fripperies and providing reassurance to middle class types that their lives need never again be devoid of knick-knacks.

It is a product of the environment but it also faces an estate of flat roofed council flats, looking out of place amongst the two up, two downs.

On closer inspection, contradictions are everywhere from plentiful cash back on one side of the road to cashed cheques on the other.

Step away from the unifying euphemism of the estate agent and real differences become apparent from the communication used in the communities.

A church in one, predominately poor, area advertises for lost souls with the banner “JESUS WILL SHOW YOU THE WAY”; in another parish, the modest notice board quaintly advertises violin sessions and groups that teach baby signing.

Change focus from architecture to people and the landscape of expressions illustrate lines of social division etched on faces. Turning a corner can cause smiles to morph into frowns, suggesting that by the age of fifty a person has not the face he really deserves but the one the socio-economic community allows him to have.

The estate agents are putting social classes ever closer together, not by abolishing boundaries but by naming new ones, some as intermingled as the tracks at the station.

Sometimes, in this doll’s house of London, the tremors in the adjacent room are palpable but as long as their craving for new toys can unite the divided, disparate occupants, the foundations remain secure.

Stop consuming and Clapham Junction may experience a crash.

The estate agents, bless them, may yet prove to be the area’s mineshaft canaries.

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Comments by other Members

JenDom at 10:47 on 27 March 2007  Report this post
Hi there!

I used to know someone who, when asked where he lived, would always promptly say, "Bat-terrrshaaa". LOL!!

The above piece will most definitely cheer him up!

I like the way I'm not quite certain where you are taking me with this article. I had to re-read the first para to realise that all is upside down and inside out here!

So yep, you got, you clever man you!


Jeremiad1971 at 13:57 on 28 March 2007  Report this post
Hiya Jen,

Thanks a lot for reading. The Bat.....er...sea thing gets me all the time, as does "Saint Reatham" instead of Streatham.

I do hope the article was not confusing and thanks again for sparing me some time.

All the best


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