“London has left London”

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The high cost of living has long since driven the ordinary world out of the central districts of England's mythical capital. And where tourists and millionaires haven't yet taken it all in, the middle class is struggling to make ends meet.

What we now find in the central districts of London? Tourists and punks who charge them an amount to have their picture taken.

LONDON – The taxi driver thought my question was stupid and he didn't hide it. I asked him, as we got into his car, to take me to an area where there would be no tourists, where we could meet Londoners to talk about life here, far from the royal palaces and the salons of tea where Saudi women taste small assortments of sandwiches without crusts at gold prices. he said in disgust. “There are only the very rich and tourists in this town 'London left London a long time ago, Madam'”.

Nine million people live in what is known as Greater London. With the exception of the parenthesis of the pandemic, the city welcomes between 15 and 17 million tourists. On Chalk Farm Road in Camden, 18-year-old Iona Lomax returns from the supermarket and returns home to where she lives with her mother. She does not see the day when she will be able to take an apartment. A one-bedroom apartment costs a thousand pounds in the neighborhood, she sighs. It's just over 1500 Canadian dollars. It's the fault of the tourists! The neighborhood is becoming gentrified, the population is dropped.

The streets of Camden are packed with tourists, London.

In the late 1970s, Camden was a hotbed of counterculture. Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols were singing there. It is in this area that the punk movement has brought color and leather to the streets of the British capital. Today, punks charge tourists an amount to have their picture taken. A junk counter-culture, immortalized and published on millions of Instagram accounts.

So tourists and super rich. London is a cool city, except, perhaps, for ordinary people who continue to live there despite everything. A few blocks from the Thames and the tourist Punks, Afaf Saad, 40, walks to the park with his son Adam. The cost of her pint of milk has doubled in the past few months, she tells me. White sliced ​​bread has also doubled in price. I am a translator, but I will have to take a little job as a babysitter in the evening to make ends meet, she explains.

Afaf Saad, 40, goes to the park with his son Adam.

Last July, the rise in goods prices increased by 10% compared to the previous year. We had not seen such inflation in the United Kingdom since the heyday of the Sex Pistols, precisely. The Bank of England does not expect a thinning. Inflation should continue to rise this fall and culminate in an entry into recession from the end of the year.

Dave Speirs, 64, doesn't like Sundays. Sundays are chaotic. There is so much trash to pick up. Speirs is a garbage collector on foot, a grueling job. I had a heart attack a few months ago, but I had to go back to work. I couldn't do it with the money I got from medicare. The garbage collector is nervous. He fears more than anything a further rise in energy prices, which have increased by an average of 33% since last year.

Dave Speirs, 64, doesn't like Sundays.

When Claire McQuillen arrived in Camden in 1952, it was a very poor area. My apartment cost five pounds (CA$7.50), she recalls. I came from Ireland where we were starving. Everyone here was Irish. The area was called "Little Ireland". But it has changed a lot. Everything has become expensive and unaffordable.

When Claire McQuillen arrived in Camden in 1952, it was a very poor.

In her pink woolen sweater, the 80-year-old lady, who has worked all her life in a radio factory, heads back to the grocery store, past cafes and trendy shops crowded with tourists whom she observes with curiosity.

What are they all doing here? she asks me. Probably the same thing as me, I want to answer him: trying to find a real London in London.

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