The Cost of Living Monday March 7th
Bright, very frosty start to the day. – I caught the 7.55 train to London from Chesterfield for a meeting , and for once had time to queue for five minutes to rescue my prebooked tickets from the machine without hopping from one leg to another in anxiety about missing the train! The car park charge at BR has gone up to £9 from £8! Whatever that increase is, it’s more than the cost of inflation!
Watched the programme on I-player last night about Lenny Henry and Angela Rippon, and two other young well-knowns (whose names I forget!) staying in Kibera for a week. Kibera has the distinction of being the largest slum in Africa. This was extremely moving, despite the obvious fantasy of it all. I felt the same enormous sadness sweep over me that I had felt when I did the same in 1995, visiting Christian Aid supported projects there. Then I almost trod on a newborn child born to a little twelve year old rape victim, lying on the floor of a 12ft cabin wrapped in a dirty tea towel . If she has survived, that baby could well be one of the young single mothers in Kibera forced to have sex with a man for £1.50 to feed her children. 16 years seems only to have increased the size and intensity of the place. My Car pays six times as much per day to sit in a carpark than these people earn from eight hours grinding labour or physical violation. Part 2 of this documentary is next Thursday- well worth watching.
But London was full of spring sunshine, and the Thames looked wonderful. After the meeting with Helen, in which we talked through the street children’s programmes, and settled on the dates when I am covering her sabbatical, I set off on an exploration across Spring Gardens to see if I could locate anywhere to stay. These are on part of the site of the old Vauxhall pleasure gardens which at one time spread all down as far as Battersea. Hemmed in by council flats it is still a nice little green space, with, oh wonders, Vauxhall City Farm at the far end. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me feel. Just hope they don’t get the chop under spending cuts. I asked for the angels to find me a guest house, and one came forth in the shape of a little ancient Chinese man collecting his pension from the PO/tobacconist. “Go down Lambeth Walk, “ he said, “They’ve turned an old pub into a hostel with rooms.”
So I followed his advice and my nose, and discovered the famous Lambeth walk is now a humble little lane, inhabited with run down precinct shops and housing association homes, little village of working people only a quarter of a mile south of the river. The London Eyebackpackers hostel said if I booked on line I could probably have a bed for £12 a night, including breakfast and free Wi-Fi. The only trouble is that the women only room is a true black hole of Calcutta, without windows, but I could probably bunk down in a mixed ward. – like who would molest me!! When I chatted to Chris about this later on Facebook, I asked if he thought I was too old for such things and he said, “Mum, I’m too old for such things, let alone you!” – But £12 a night for central London and walking distance to Comic Relief- and the city farm. Hmm very tempting!
My grown up self did prevail however and I walked over Lambeth Bridge, passing the Novatel hotel, room rate without breakfast from £150 upwards) and found St Matthews guest house on Gt Peter St, recommended by the MU where you can have privacy and comfort in an Anglican grown-up way for £35 a night, and still walk down to the Albert Embankment in 15 minutes. Haven’t booked anything yet. If I took the cheaper option it would save me £300 over 13 weeks of one night a week. That would keep a family of 8 for six months in Kibera, Kenya. –So watch this space for future calculations! Funny old world.