Plumstead: land of dreams…
I guess this is the problem with London and the relentless march of gentrification. I set my first novel in the place I grew up, Plumstead (and surrounding environs of Welling and Woolwich), which, was at the time… to be frank, a complete shithole. As a teen I had friends who’s parents were too scared to allow them to come out to Woolwich cinema. Then again, my friends from the nicer suburbs had never had the experience of narrowly missing walking in on a stabbing by about five minutes, so their parents might have had a point.
And then, Woolwich was gentrified (Woolwich is about a 10 minute downhill stagger from Plumstead). Now, part of it is still a shabby, concrete high-street leading to a Delboy-style market, but the station was revitalized by the DLR (my dad suggested they’d never finish it, as who’d want everyone from Woolwich getting out?). Then the first gastro pub moved in, squatting awkwardly next to the square that has been revitalized by one of those low-water slip-hazard child-catching fountains that became fashionable after Diana’s memorial, all watched over by a giant screen and a multi-story Tesco superstore and modern, upscale flat development. Yes, you did read that correctly, for a few years, the best flats in Woolwich were above the giant Tesco store. Then, the abandoned armory on the river got turned into yuppie (or rather, hipster) flats complete with a river jogging path, another gastropub, expensive pizza and beer place and, most importantly, really, big heavy metal gates to keep out the locals who managed to get across the four-lane road. There’s a joke going round at the moment, you can tell the class of commuters coming out of the DLR based on whether they turn right (for the armory development) or left to ‘old’ Woolwich and Plumstead beyond.
Somehow, ‘old’ Plumstead has survived in its pre-gentrified (read: shit) form. But no longer. Here’s the gushing Guardian article on what the main character of my novel describes as ‘”It’s Plumstead, you can’t live here unless you beat the crap out of people or want the crap beaten out of you.”‘ The Guardian calls it magical. I want some of what they dropped before wondering round for the article. And I’m wondering how I am going to pitch my novel of a genuine slice of 1990s verisimilitude, when pubs known for bottling are now known for their bottled beers.