Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Decline of Metroland.

The green space here is one of the last remaining in what was once known as Middlesex, an ancient country that was destroyed as Greater London expanded from Ealing in the West outwards along the arterial A4 and north westwards along the Metropolitan Tube line.

It's hard now to believe that the south part of Harrow, glimpsed in the distance here, was once a desirable semi rural suburb that those fleeing inner city London wanted to move to. Harrow developed in the shadow of the hill upon which the public school and certain expensive independent shops exist as a self conscious and snobby reminder of a vanished England.

In fact, Harrow on the Hill has about as much connection to the reality of what surrounds it as a Harry Potter novel does to contemporary English life. Maybe one day it will develop gate houses at the foot of the hill with barriers and security if the dangerous sections of the teeming masses below target it in the next riots.

Whole swathes of Middlesex have lost their settled and sedate commuter aspect and appear as floodlight bricken wastelands. The semis with their tended gardens and silly ponds and gnomes have often gone as they become temporary work barracks for a globalised workforce in the shadow of Heathrow Airport.

Even the spire of the Church on Harrow on the Hill has a red light on it to warn low flying aircraft of its existence. From Old Redding, a high point from which Harrow and Highgate Hills can both be seen, by day the planes taking off from Heathrow like slow motion ballistic missiles one after another can be watched. More airport terminals are planned.

"The sisters Progress and Destruction dwell
Where rural Middlesex once cast her spell
Dear vanished county of such prosperous farms/
Where now are your weatherboarded charms."

John Betjeman wrote that in 1967. Even that world of contended suburban Metroland has mostly disappeared, a process accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s by London becoming an ever more deracinated "Global City". The idea that people, migrants from within Britain or elsewhere can 'make a home for themselves' here ignores the fact it no longer functions as one for those already living there.

Life has a feeling of transience and meaningless drift. It is hardly surprising that some alienated Muslims feel that if nations of Muslims must be, as they see it, are destroyed by the need of Western foreign policies designed to control their oil and that this is the 'civilisation' it has to offer, then it deserves to be destroyed in turn by them.

There is something sinister in the new architectures of warehouses and logistics depots surrounded with aluminium rail fencing, razor wire, and 24/7 security barriers and omnipresent CCTV cameras. The riots in August 2011 showed that social discipline is not internalised: only repression and surveillance can restrain outbreaks of mass pychopathology of the streets.

Metroland is dead, perhaps, due to two factors. Firstly, it's decline was hastened by the M25 and the Great car economy of Thatcher. This change in 1986 made it easier for those in Metroland to start to live in Motorway Towns. Secondly, in the 1990s the well to do Londoners could move back into the old inner city districts such as Islington if not beyond and around the M25.

The dislike of public transport probably played a part. It just became as obsolete as the "rus in urbe" concept. England consists of little more than sodium lit suburbs interconnected with numerous high speed motorway and dual carriage way links. The south east of England especially is now one large suburban sprawl.

With vastly inflated property prices in London, the economy of which was increasingly detached from the rest of England that was, however, still dependent upon it is role as a finance centre, many sold out and went off outside London, whether the Costa del Sol or the Motorway towns with quick airport

Then new people from all over the globe came in and either rented semis or bought them if they could. High Streets no longer had anything but bland retail chains such as Wenzels and Greggs selling trashy baked goods. Polish shops sprung up after 2005 when hundreds of thousands entered in order to work the London cash machine to their benefit.

Though large numbers of British Asians had took over the old suburban English ideas with success certain chunks Metroland . Few people look at one another or even say 'hello', crime is rampant, drugs are commonplace and there are tensions and enmities where there isn't just flat bored indifference.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I live central E1 and travel the opposite direction to work in Harrow: cheaper office space. At least Byron's 'peachy stone' is still there above the graveyard by the church.