On the East Wall Road, pungent fumes and the varying tones and timbres of engines follow the trucks lumbering towards the Port Tunnel. The road reverberates with future travels – to the airport, to ships, to other routes. It’s a place of movement, of a less-than-substantial present. It’s dusty and dry and utilitarian, with a background of cranes and containers. No green except for a dark grove of trees around the squat Port Company building.
A neighbourhood friend of mine joked when I first moved to the area – Don’t be at any of that arty stuff down here, I don’t want my rent to go up! He is safe (for now); I didn’t even get a chance. Nor did anyone else; it simply skipped that phase this time. The reason I was given for my eviction was ‘house renovation’, although this turns out in time to be an untruth, really an excuse to raise the rent. The houses around me are going up too.
“All over the city my friends are losing their homes. The ones you think will last forever, passed from one artist to another, a bit crumbly, with uncertain heating but warm in atmosphere, always with stuff left over from previous inhabitants. Bit by bit they are getting sold or renovated for higher rents and more desirable tenants. But then for others it is worse still: families sleeping in cars, families fleeing conflict across land and sea, braving great dangers for a place to lie safe at night. Where are we all to go?”