Once the damp, roof leaking, same-threadbare-blue-carpet-since-83 flat and doss house asset location of the slumlord, St Leonards on sea has changed a lot over the last twenty years and is now becoming the (2nd) home of a quite different, but equally odious breed of investment class parasite, the hipster’s parents. That’s right, the twenty something ‘self facilitating media node’ trustafarians still prefer Brighton or Dalston, but not their mummies and daddies. These baby boomer former faux hippies turned full-on self-serving tory sh*tbags, have been eyeing up St Leonards on sea the way Tony Montana looked upon Miami… since they read that article in the Metro.
Usually they are the second or third generation of the idle rich (those who live off unearned income and the backs of others) or those who happen to work the property market right, when Thatcher gave them the gift or cheap council houses to buy up as investments from the bribed working class. If they did work a day in their cosseted lives, it was only to consolidate their wealth (usually in the financial industry) or for power (local/county/central government is a prime choice), not to ‘keep the roof above their head’. Now 50, they are long retired and looking for pastures new in their red trousers and Laura Ashley dresses to invade, consume and move on, like a virus.
Much like some viruses disguise themselves to get past the human immune system, these parasites are adept at doing the same in the community, so they seem benign to the unsuspecting local. “I’m a full time artist, daarling!”, no they’re not, they do a few embarrassing daubs and have only ever sold one… to a friend… for £50. This is the type who has a couple of ‘Houses in multiple occupation’ and will issue a Section 21 notice faster than you can say ‘burnt umber’ if their tenant’s Universal Credit is late being paid and therefore delayed getting into their greedy mitts.
The worst part of the gentrification is the gratitude these vultures expect from the indigenous working class. “Oh you’ve opened a poncey fine wine shop or a vegan cup cake bakery in one of the poorest wards in the constituency and the south east? gawd bless you guv’nor! You’re a wealth creator, dragging us unfortunates aaaght of the gutter!”. The stark reality is, most of the residents of central St Leonards have not benefitted at all from this insurgence. All they have seen is their rent go up… more than usual.
For the unlucky ones, the slumlord (usually living in Rother or Wealden in some semi-rural pile) will kick them out, renovate the place for the first time in 30 years and double the rent, hoping to let it out to probably the worst of the worst, the local petit bourgeois wannabe. They’ve been grinding it out in the same 9-5 for the last 30 years, usually at the CSA or DWP as they provide the only stable employment in the town for those willing to ransack their dignity. Wasted years spent dreaming of the time they can buy a rundown bedsit and rent it out, just like the red trouser brigade they so desperately want to be like.
However, with that dream long since dashed on the rocks of austerity, family breakup and ironically the tory government they voted for, the best they can do is rent a place that looks the part. These poor sods love it when a new ridiculously OTT eatery opens in King’s Road in a shop that used to sell 4 cans of Kestrel Super for £5. They will lord this new hobby business of some ex stock broker’s wife on social media, although they can only afford eat there once a month, from the fixed price early-bird lunch menu. Just tap water please.
The winter months after Christmas do offer some respite for the local population still holding on. Mid-winter in south central is often too much for those more familiar with Zone 1 or a London dormitory home counties village. Used to sampling rather than actually living the grim reality of Norman Road in February, these financial snowbirds fly their ‘elephant’s breath’ painted second nest. With the hobby business owners safely ensconced in town until the spring, their retail vanity fests remain closed most of the week. This has the knock on effect on the freshly arrived DFL, making them flee back to what the see as civilisation, leaving Warrior Square to the crack dealer once more.
Written by @colinsellens