Monday, August 18, 2014

Messing in Croydon

On 1st August, a steaming hot day during the heatwave, I received a knock on the front door. It was my neighbour.

"You're in the Green Party aren't you?"

After confirming my political colour of choice, she continued, "There's people dumping rubbish in the park."

I quickly didn't change into my Green Knight outfit and investigated.

I took a photo of the offending items in the park. I had a view to use the My Croydon smartphone App to report it.

I then walked up to a house which was seemingly emptying the contents of a garden into the park. The group of people before me consisted of:

Three men who were doing all the labouring.
At least two children between 8-10 years old.
A mother with a baby.

The three men looked like they were suffering from the hot conditions. They were using a hacksaw to cut branches into carryable pieces.

I explained to the group that they could contact the council to take this stuff. The main labourer asserted that the council had advised them to leave the vegetation and additional rubbish in the park, just by the entrance. I responded politely by questioning whether the council would do such a thing. I then offered to contact the council to collect it from outside the house and proceeded to look for the phone number on my smartphone. The main labourer responded by stating that I had made the children feel uncomfortable. A few poor excuses were being offered in my direction, and then one of the children started saying, "If I don't like someone I am going to say Boo!" She then repeatedly said Boo! The main labourer asked on more than one occasion if I was the owner of the park. Soon after the poor excuses turned into unpleasantries being fired in my direction.

Then in flash the mood completely turned when the main labourer threatened to cut me with his hacksaw if I didn't go away. Number 2 labourer chimed in with a volley of expletives. Number 3 labourer decided to play peacemaker and told me to walk away. Stunned by the mood change and unsure how to react, I pointed out that we all owned the park. 

Next, the main labourer rushed over to me with hacksaw in hand, which he was occasionally using even during our exchange, and grabbed my arm tightly and demanded to know where I lived.

"Show me which house is yours?" He prompted his question by waving the hacksaw in full view of my eyeballs.

His calculations proved correct because I was not in the mood to share my address with him, retreating was clearly now the sensible course of action. My heart was racing I was really unsure how this powderkeg of a man was going to turn next. His eyes were full of anger. 

He let go of my arm at which point number 3 labourer pulled me away. Before I turned around to walk home I shouted out, "You make me want to move away from this area." Main labourer responded in his broken accent in an unexpected way, "You should move to heaven" and pointed and looked up at the sky knowing my eyes were only fixed on him as he returned to using the hacksaw for its actual purpose.

Number 2 labourer then said in reference to me, "He's not even white."

When I arrived home, I was shaking, partly with anger and partly with fear. I felt that if the main labourer would behave in such an agressive manner then he must perceive to have very little at stake in society. 

I definitely was not going to call the police. Instead I decided to call Croydon North MP, Steve Reed's constituency office. I explained to Louise his assistant what had just happened. She sounded shocked and genuinely sympathetic. I asked her what I should do next. She understood that I didn't want to call the police. She then suggested I speak to Cllr Stuart Collins, Mr Clean Green cabinet member - the champion of the new council slogan against flytippers, 'Don't Mess With Croydon'. She said she was going to send him an email immediately. I had his number so I called him after putting the phone down. I got through to his voicemail. He called back straight away. Cllr Collins said that he wanted to call one of his enforcement officers. I emphatically replied, no. I did not want to risk continued intimidation.

The conversation concluded with the only thing left possible which was to get the offending vegetation and ancillaries to be collected on the morning of the next working day. Cllr Collins said he would see to it.

Yesterday (17th August). I took a photo of the flytipped vegetation. Some people who are not 'taking pride' are now dumping stuff on to it because it now looks like dumping point. 

Evidently, it is possible to mess with Croydon if you think you don't have anything to be proud about. 

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Letter on Emily Benn

From Croydon Guardian 30th July

Dear Editor,

A friend of mine who lives in East London has just text me, “24? What does a 24 year old know about anything?” He is referring to Emily Benn, granddaughter, to the late great Tony Benn. Ms Benn, aged 24, is to stand as Labour candidate in Croydon South at the May 2015 General Election. Tactically, it is good for Croydon Labour that she is standing because, on the surface, voters will assume her position on the political compass is similar to her grandfather. Scratch the surface and voters will find that she is a neoliberal investment banker, belonging to the fraternity that has caused this age of austerity.

However, Labour does need to somehow portray a progressive sheen to their persona because those who believe in social justice are deserting Labour and finding solace in the Greens. Croydon Labour from the outset has maintained it will continue the cuts programme started by the previous administration.

Labour in Croydon is now associated with a name that traditional Labour voters will warm to. This undoubtedly will help manage the obvious disappointment when the cuts programme takes effect.

Incidentally, I replied to my friend’s text with, “A 24yr old will be in tune with issues facing young people today, but having read her biog (grammar school followed by Oxford Uni & now graduate trainee at UBS) I could be wrong!”

Yours sincerely
Shasha Khan
Croydon Green Party

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Standing up for what matters