I have lived in the southernmost part of the Borough of Wandsworth, in Streatham, for nearly fifteen years. Originally I thought I lived in Tooting. Then I thought it was the Furzedown. On an old map I found, I also identified my little locality as Lonesome, which was supposedly named after Lonesome House, which once stood here, though others suggest that the district itself was called Lonesome by virtue of its isolation. In the late 18th century Lonesome stood on the edge of the extensive lavender fields of Mitcham.
But I reckon that more accurately I am probably in Streatham Vale. Sounds lovely and picturesque does it not?
In the time I have lived here, my local greengrocer has been murdered with a shotgun in his shop, and there has been a drive-by gang shooting at the end of the road. (These were the biggies. There have obviously also been countless muggings, assaults, burglaries and thefts. In all categories, crime rates tend to be higher than the national average).
Once, a drug dealer and his girlfriend lived in the flat next door. They fought loudly, publicly and continuously. Doors slamming and crashing and cinematic cascades of furniture being thrown about the place. Once, she chased this unsavoury character into the street hurling bottles of lager after him. Unfortunately for me, he took shelter behind my car, which suffered somewhat from the assault. They are long gone now, replaced by a much nicer (and quieter) couple.
The police arrive en masse at the scene of a heinous fruit and vegetable-related crime
Immigrant communities have come and gone. A few years ago, there were many Somali people in the street. They’ve mainly moved on up the hill to the other parts of Streatham or elsewhere. Right now, I have lots of neighbours from Eastern Europe.
My local Somali establishment
Another time, they were building some flats in the street round the corner. Some supplies were delivered in a large trailer, which suddenly sank into a hole in the road that opened under it. Apart from the police helicopters that regularly illuminate the gardens at night with their floodlamps, this was probably the most dramatic thing that has happened around here in recent times. Except for when a car drove through the front of my local pharmacy and nearly caused the whole building to collapse.
The council doesn’t provide bins for the refuse in our street. People put bags of food waste out before collection day and these are invariable ripped apart by the urban foxes that come off the local Streatham and Tooting Bec Commons to prowl the streets and search for food at night, so that often when you go out of your front door in the morning the road is strewn with chicken bones, nappies and other unpleasant detritus. Talking of which, stuff is regularly just dumped in the street all the time. Particularly nasty old mattresses. There are always mattresses. In fact, I did a whole photo series of them but gave up on it after 124 photos as it was doing my head in, there were so many.