The gang’s leader only ever showed up after evening fell … but where exactly was he coming from?
Somebody once pointed out that, though it can be blamed for bombing half of London flat in 1940, the Luftwaffe can hardly be held responsible for the way that parts of it were redeveloped.
The Craven Estate provides a case in point. Put up in the mid-Sixties, and expected to be temporary even then, it still exists today, a fortress of five dismal dozen-storey blocks set in a ring. Its colours? Aged, rain-soaked concrete grey, with only prison-green paintwork to break up the monotony. Its location? A bad part of East London, vaguely near the river. Its reputation? Nobody, given the choice, goes near the place.
I had little choice.
A collection of circumstances—broken marriage, a failing, only half-started literary career—had left me facing the prospect of homelessness. Apart from the streets, there were only two options. I could move into a hostel, sharing a room with half a dozen others. Or … the local authority was running a new scheme. It was trying to rejuvenate the worst of its public housing by moving fresh blood in. I could have my own small, single-bedroom flat—at a location of their choice—for what amounted to a peppercorn rent.
When I heard it was the Craven, I still had to think about it hard.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m no softie. I grew up near the Docklands, long before they were redeveloped, got in my fair share of fistfights as a teenager, and am reasonably streetwise. Such wisdom advises you to stay away from certain places, though. They’re not controlled by the local authority, nor the police, nor the government. Darker forces are in charge, there. And you cross their path at your own peril.