Gentrification and Mini Golf

29 January 2016

I moved to Brixton 18 months ago. It's one of my favourite places in the city and I've wanted to live here ever since I landed in London. I like it a lot.

But like many places in London it has a problem - a creeping gentrification, and the sense that the people who have lived here for their whole lives are slowly being pushed away by naked financial realities.

Without going into rather complex economics which I don't understand, the idea is that Brixton has been under-priced for many years and rising house prices and rents are a natural market correction. These, in turn, make the area unaffordable for the current community - both residents and retailers. 

Learning To Be British

12 January 2016

I left my last piece deliberately unfinished as I couldn't find the space in an already long article to explain why London is my favourite city in the world. I've lived here for four-and-a-half years now, which is comfortably longer than I've ever lived anywhere since waving goodbye to Palmerston North as a wide-eyed 18-year-old in 2003. London is my home now, or at least my second home.

And I desperately hope I can keep calling it home into the future. There's a small catch - my visa runs out in June and I have to apply to stay here. It's a daunting prospect, and more than a little scary. The entire process is incredibly stressful and it's forced me to confront feelings that I've not had to since I moved here.

Ranking every city I've been to (Part 3)

5 January 2016

So I've come to the end of this little geographical hop around my life-to-date. Thanks for indulging my wanderlust. 

The top three in this list were especially hard to rank and at various points in the last fortnight all three have been in the number one spot. I'm happy with the way it's worked out. It feels right.

Hopefully a few years from now I can revisit this list and redo it with a few dozen more awesome places added in.

Ranking every city I've been to (Part 2)

2 January 2016

I'm continuing to rank all the cities I've ever been to. Originally this was supposed to be a two-parter, but it got away on me a bit so there is still one more entry to come with the top ten.

It occurs to me that I've written an awful lot here. Again, I can't stress enough that these are my personal experiences and I'm sure many of you have had very different experiences in some of these places.

So, let's get to it:

34. Wellington, New Zealand - My place of birth, and place of intermittent residence during the 2000s. When I was growing up in the NZ provinces, Wellington was always the "big city", The place to go where you wanted to see tall buildings or bustling crowds. These days, I can see it in a clearer context. Its a lovely place, with incredible coffee hangouts, some unique topography and streets of real character. But I can't help but find it a little insular, self-conscious and even a little (whisper it quietly)...dull. I wish I didn't feel this way as this city still means a lot to me and to a lot of my close friends. Keep on enjoying Wellington, people!

33. Birmingham, UK - Making fun of Birmingham is a national British pastime. It's a very big city without any real landmarks. It just kind of sits there in the middle of England, being large. But I've always thought if I get sick of London, Birmingham seems like a nice place to live. It's got a very walk-able and interesting city centre and its struck a really nice balance between historic and modern architecture. It's also home to one of the best public libraries I've ever visited - an unfortunate rarity in the UK.

Ranking every city I've been to (Part 1)

27 December 2015

This week I've occupied my commuting time by making a list of every city I've ever been to and then ranking them. I've been lucky enough to have done quite a lot of travelling in the last decade and wanted to reflect on some of the amazing places I've been to. 

This is part one of two. A "city" is defined as being more than 100,000 inhabitants. I may be missing one or two and there are a few exceptions I've made (*see footnote)

The comments are off the top of my head and I mean no offence if I short-changed your home town. (incidentally, my home town Palmerston North only has a population of 79,000. Keep reaching for the sky, Palmy!)

69. Hamilton, New Zealand  - Somewhere had to finish last. Sorry Hamilton. I still like your river.

Nha Trang
68. Nha Trang, Vietnam - Drugs, girls and a Full English on every street corner.  Where backpackers go to escape Vietnam. The beach was a brief respite and the area outside the tourist quarter was a nice diversion.

68. Dublin, Ireland - I don't get the fuss. Expensive, insular and not much fun if you don't like Guinness. 

67. Greater Los Angeles, USA - Impossible to get around without a car. Encapsulates the very worst of American excess. Shallow, superficial and fake.

66. Graz, Austria - Sleepy and exhaustingly obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger.