A few notes on my up-and-coming new home.
21.02.2009 - 28.02.2009 9 °C
The TV show starts with a black screen as a voice comes on and says, "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime, and the Crown Prosecution Service who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories." It is the first episode of Law and Order: UK. The series is created by Dick Wolf, who created all the various Law and Order series filmed in America. This new series is the first one to be set outside of New York.
The premier episode is entitled "Care," and it is a remake of an original NYC Law and Order. A baby is found dead at a hospital. The police detectives soon learn that the mother brought the baby to the hospital after finding it dead in her flat in Kings Cross. Turns out that the landlord and her silent partner and heavy broke the gas heater, causing the baby to die. They wanted the woman out of her flat so they could convert the building into high priced lofts.
In the episode, the two detectives are walking along Euston Road in front of Kings Cross rail station as they discuss how the area is being gentrified, and while it is good that the drug dealer and prostitutes aren't in the area any more, all the new, well-off tenants moving into the area are causing rents to go up and pushing the less fortunate tenants out. "Where are they supposed to live?" asks the one detective.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am that gentrifying force.
I just moved into an upmarket loft in Kings Cross, in what I believe is a converted warehouse, though it could be a purpose built building made to look like a converted warehouse, I'm not entirely sure. Either way, my high priced rent and need for gastro-pubs is no doubt destroying the character of this place, the same character that attracted me to it in the first place.
Ah well, what can I do? I'll stay here until my rich urban habits have turned the place into a bland, soul-less neighbourhood, and then move onto the next place. Just you watch, I'll probably move down to Elephant and Castle in a few years and destroy the grit and character of that place.
In the meantime, let me tell you a little bit about my new place. Kings Cross is an area of North London centred around Kings Cross station, partly in the borough of Camden and partly in borough of Islington. I live in the part in Islington. The area is named for a status of King George V that was erected in 1830 at the corners of Pentonville, Euston and Gray's Inn roads. The statue was widely hated, and so it was torn down in 1845, however the area retained the name of Kings Cross.
Prior to the statue, the area was known as Battle Bridge for a bridge crossing the River Fleet at this point. The River Fleet no longer bubbles along above ground - it was covered over in the 1700 and 1800s, today draining out from a cement tunnel into the Thames under the Blackfriars Bridge. Two streets over from where I live, though, you can still find the name Battle Bridge. It is the name of a basin on the Regents Canal where today the London Canal Museum stands.
I have not written Kings Cross with an apostrophe in the name. While it would be most accurate to write King's Cross as the place is named after a single King, convention has the name written without the apostrophe most times, so I will adopt that convention as well. The rail station, though, is usually written with the apostrophe. I have no explaination.
The area is well connected to transit. Kings Cross-St. Pancras tube station has 7 different tube lines running through it, including the Piccadilly line out to Heathrow Airport. King's Cross train station sits right beside St. Pancras train station, and Euston station is just down the road a few blocks. From those three stations I can catch a train to pretty much anywhere North of London, right up into Scotland. Additionally, I can grab the Eurostar to Paris and Brussels from St. Pancras, and will soon be able to take a high speed train down to Dover.
King's Cross Station is undergoing a massive renovation to provide a nicer station with a more train platforms. The train shed roof is going to be refurbished so it looked much nicer than the current, grungy look it sports today.
The area between King's Cross Station and St. Pancras stations are also being developed. The site, called Kings Cross Central, is 65 areas of disused land, but will soon be high end apartments, offices and shopping. It is one of the biggest brown field developments in all of Europe.
While the area is definitely being gentrified, it still has some run-down areas. Nothing too scary, but a few places that look like they could use a fresh coat of paint and some Windex.
The area that I am in is a lot of old warehouses that served boats running along the Regent's Canal, one of the primary ways that goods were moved around London before trucks. Many of the old warehouses have been converted into living space or office blocks now. Most of these conversions still have a warehouse-feel, though, which I think it kind of nice.
I'm not a fan, but I know many are, so I shall now point out that in addition to being featured on Law and Order: UK, King's Cross rail station features in the Harry Potter books as the place where young wizards catch a train to go to Hogwart's school. The magical gateway to the train is in a column between platforms 9 and 10, called Platform 9 3/4.
I hate to burst the bubble of those who are huge Pot-heads (err, is that the right term?), but no such place exists. When writing the book, J.K. Rowling got confused about the layout of the station, thinking that platforms 9 and 10 were in the main part of the station. In fact, they are not. They are in a separate, smaller part off to the left of the station. Further, Platform 9 and Platform 10 are not connected, but rather have two sets of tracks between them.
To honour the mention in the books, however, King's Cross station have put the sign on the wall and the cart half-way through the wall, though. Not on the station platform, mind you, but rather in a walk-way that leads out from the station. In addition to not actually being able to put the tribute between 9 and 10 due to the fact they are not connected, it also keeps folks from wandering down the platforms and getting in the way of busy commuters.
So, that's a few short notes about my new home. I am no longer a docklands boy. I am now a KGXer, (KGX being the code for the station on the train schedules).
Hello Kings Cross, let the gentrification begin.