Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I love Hackney even more than last time

Hackney is the worst place to live in Britain according to a Channel 4 programme to be screened soon. The timing of this news could have been better as I am trying to sell my Hackney flat. I have to say, as much as I like to think I live in the worst place in England, if not the entire world because it suits my fey artistic ego to perceive myself as extremely hard done by, I don’t actually think it can be true. Worse than Grimsby, Grimethorpe or Gravesend? Have these people never been to Grays?

We Hackney residents have a tradition. It’s OK for us to run down our borough but when outsiders presume to do it, then we rally as if we were defending a revolutionary barricade. Our Mayor, Jules ‘Drano’ Pipe had the number of our critics very quickly. ‘This kind of programme panders to the worst sort of middle England snobbery’, he charged.

He has to be a bit careful here though. Having worked in urban regeneration for enough years to qualify as terminally insane, I can attest that most inner London boroughs vie ferociously for the accolade of worst place in Britain in order to get the most money from the Government. But this is just a subterfuge we play so we can get the resources to build lots of landmark facilities that immediately collapse in ruins and then complain bitterly about them. We don’t actually think it’s that bad here. We just like to waste tax payers’ money on our follies and have the opportunity for a good old moan.

The cynic in me questions the motives of Channel 4 for releasing this information in advance of the programme being shown. Channel 4 knows that of its fifteen viewers, eleven of us live in Hackney. It also knows that nine of us only tune in for Charmed. This is a shameless attempt to boost viewing figures, obviously. I have used the skills of my former profession to try and fathom out how the makers of The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK: 2006 reached their conclusions. Here is their list of worst places.

  • Hackney
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Newham
  • Islington
  • Middlesbrough
  • Nottingham
  • Strabane
  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Manchester

The programme makers claim to look at five selection criteria used by home-buyers - crime, environment, lifestyle, education and employment. The list bears a remarkable resemblance to the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD 2004). There are separate IMDs for England and Wales and, as far as I know, none for Ireland so I’ll have to discount Merthyr Tydfil, Strabane and Blaenau Gwent for the sake of this argument. This is how the remaining seven English places on the ‘worst’ list are ranked in the IMD 2004.

1 Hackney
2 Tower Hamlets
3 Manchester
4 Islington
6 Newham
9 Nottingham
19 Middlesbrough

Our Government is obsessed with collecting information on what people wear, eat, learn, do and buy. They also have no idea how to look at information objectively and they imbue it with all sorts of subjective judgements based on their warped perceptions of what is good for the population. It is entirely possible to have a great life completely under the radar of any Government spy satellite. I wonder how the government might rate a typical week day in my life, which might go something like this:-

9am Have breakfast in bed, read yesterday’s paper, write diary.

10am Get up and write blog.

12pm Go for a run around Hackney Marshes or Victoria Park.

1pm Have lunch and watch BBC News.

2pm Work on book while listening to compilation CDs made by nice friend.

6pm Play piano or make bad art with rubbish collected over years.

8pm Have gin and tonic followed by dinner and glass of wine.

9pm Watch TV or DVD.

11pm Go to bed and read book from library or own collection as can’t afford to buy books at the moment.

Only about two of these things are measurable by Government standards which are based on consumerism that can be tracked. So it knows how many people in Hackney buy Happy Meals and cans of baked beans but it doesn’t know what you eat if you get a vegetable box from Abel & Cole or collect blackberries, plums and elderflowers from the park. It knows how many pointless ring tones you download but not how many sonnets you pen. It can tell if you are doing an Adult Literacy GNVQ in your spare time but it doesn’t know if you are reading Heidegger. The Government is only interested in how far you live from a retail park or if you are virtually resident in your local healthy living centre and community college.

I have a permanent view of a gorgeous canal with narrow boats, fish and water birds of every kind. If I lived in one of the ‘top’ places like Epsom or Esher, I might be living next to a railway line or on top of a chip shop with pigeons nesting in my eves. Hackney is full of artists, actors, writers and students and other people who either don’t care about money or have discovered a higher plane beyond credit card debt. It is the most genuinely cosmopolitan place in the entire land. Did I mention that my flat is for sale? Hackney may be a great place but it doesn’t yet have a beach…


Anonymous said...

Your typical week day sounds perfect and a lot like mine (though I live in the sticks). I believe in an aristocracy of sensibility.

Lesley Cookman said...

My son used to work in Hackney - can't remember the name of his local, but it was a great place. Your day sounds a lot like mine - and I have got the beach, although I can't see it from here. All I can see is other houses.

The Pasadenas are still going strong, although as you might assume - made up of very much younger musicians! See http://www.pasadena.co.uk, where there is an appalling picture of my daughter among her protectors.

That's so pants said...

It sounds good. What does it mean?

Dave Hill said...

Did you see the show? Dross, wasn't it? Oh, and please Noosa don't sell up and go.

P.S. Hello Lesley!

That's so pants said...

Yes Dave, I watched it. It was rubbish but at least they advised viewers to purchase property here so my future may not be totally ruined. I could stay in Hackney but you'd need to start campaigning for a beach (sand - not pebbles). I will need waves of at least three feet. How are you getting on with fixing me up with Leslie Phillips?