I toyed with the idea of bunking the fare yesterday before they build proper barriers along the Hounslow-Waterloo line but decided against it. Good call. Not only was there a sea of revenue inspectors waiting at the end of the stairs at Isleworth Station but the police were out in force as well. I didn't think Isleworth was full of fare-dodgers but at least you feel like it was worth getting a ticket. Isleworth is one of these odd pockets of West London whose location you have to explain because nobody has ever heard of it. If I want to sound posh then I tell people it's near Richmond and if I want to appear 'normal' then I tell people it's between Brentford and Hounslow. We moved here from Barking in East London and a year later not a day goes by when I don't thank the good lord that I no longer live in Barking. I grew ulcers and developed IBS living in Barking. It is the most gruesome detestable dive you can imagine, made worse by the fact that the transport links are actually quite good so why it is so awful. In the absence of wealthy middle class parents to stump up a deposit and panicking at the prospect of renting for ever and therefore falling even further behind we bought a place in Barking. Lordy it was bleak. A 20 minute bus ride from the station on the 369, in which you had to endure one or more of the following: youths smoking skunk; men talking aggressively into a mobile phone in a foreign language; the sight of mothers feeding their kids chips and burgers; screaming malnourished kids; mean-faced pale teenage girls tarting up to young thugs; teenage boys in hoodies boasting about their latest appearances in the juvenile courts; or people listening to dangerously loud Ipods. How did I end up living there in my late 30s? What on earth had I done wrong to deserve that? We hunkered down and just got on with it, every minute of being cooped up in the windswept plain that is Barking Reach, the air humming with the nearby forest of power lines, was like a punishment. Then finally after an exceptionally stressful move we made enough money, unbelievably, on a grim house built of cardboard in Barking Retch to cobble together a deposit for an interest-only mortgage on a 2 bedroom flat in the relatively genteel district of Isleworth. Where's that? is what people usually say. Hence the choice of replies. Richmond or Hounslow depending on how posh you want to sound. Even the local nutters are genteel. Barking had nutters, but they were dangerous and thuggish and violent. The nutters in Isleworth are posh and a bit vacant. Isleworth seems to be off the radar for most people which suits us fine. There's a nice old-fashioned pub on Linkfield Rd called The Red Lion that does good live music, and there's an open mic night that seems to be monopolised by a trio of middle aged men, one of whom apparently is a music teacher at a school, I think. And there is a great little supermarket staffed by Sikhs, my fave ethnic minority apart from Jewish people, who stock loads and loads of fresh food. Guess why they are successful - they do fresh food and loads of it. In other words they give you what you want, and the location is good. It's like the Tardis. I have noticed the markup on tinned food is shocking in there but fair play to them for having a go.
What I want to know is...how on earth do ordinary people afford to live in London? I do not have rich parents. My partner's parents died a long time ago. There just isn't any family money. How do most people do it? It is a mystery to me. I earn £35K and that's not bad. I work with lots of people who earn £25K or thereabouts. How do they do it? I really want to know.