JENNY ECLAIR: THE PROS & CONS OF GENTRIFICATION
Jenny Eclair, our favourite Camberwell comedian, on gentrification and the curious pursuit of acquiring ‘stuff’
Hello February, the cruelest month of the year. This is when most of us start assessing the winter damage. Personally, I shall be heading into spring two stone overweight and covered in a thick furry pelt.
I’ve been using the fact that I’m writing another novel as an excuse for the last six months. I have just sat for weeks on end, my thighs drooping like fleshy panniers on either side of my ‘lucky’ writing chair (the only thing ‘lucky’ about that chair is that it hasn’t broken).
And it’s not just me that’s over stuffed, the house is straining at the seams, mainly due to the daughter having boomeranged back home after two happy years living in Peckham. I tell you, re-gentrification has a habit of biting you in the bum. While we all enjoy a certain degree of neighbourhood ponci-fication, the flipside is that landlords realise their three-bedroom Victorian top-floor conversion is a veritable goldmine. Cue three 20-somethings out on their ears.
My daughter has hoarding tendencies – she’s 25 and still has a trove of Polly Pockets
Cheers landlord, my top floor now looks like Steptoe’s yard. I’ve got no problem with the girl moving home (temporarily) – she’s vaguely house trained, if a bit heavy on the cereal – it’s her tide of ‘stuff’ that frightens me. My daughter has hoarding tendencies – she’s 25 and still has a trove of Polly Pockets.
Together we have tried to cull. We’ve carried boxes of stuff to charity shops only to change our minds at the last minute – ‘Hold on, that brown velvet jacket is the one I was wearing when Bob Geldof mistook me for Paula Yates’. Stuff. We spend the first half of our lives accumulating it and the second half desperately trying to get rid of it. Surely there must be some kind of compromise?
My father died just before Christmas. He’d spent the last three years of his life in a nursing home, a wonderful place with the kindest of staff, but when my sister and I packed up his room, the entire contents fitted into a couple of roll bags. It seemed so very little for a 90-year-old man who had done so much, made so many friends and travelled so far. I know that it made sorting everything out so much easier, and it was how he wanted things to be, after all he’d been in the army and there was a part of him that never left the barracks. He was seriously quite happy with a bed, a blanket, a cup and a back scratcher!
I don’t need box loads of personal possessions to remember my father, I can bring him right back in an instant – a red and white spotted handkerchief, the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, a certain whistle and even the sight of my knees. My knees are his knees and whereas once I used to despair of this fact, I’m now quite pleased. Let’s face it, stuff is just stuff, knees are forever.