I live in the Elephant, on one of the big estates that are scheduled to be pulled down as part of the larger push for 2012. I’ve been here two months and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. I lived here when I first came to London twenty years ago and now, when I don’t know if I’m coming or going, I’m here again.
In a way it’s the perfect crossroads. My flatmate said the other day: “So many people who come to London come from somewhere else – it could be Europe or South America or the North somewhere – and are basically skint – end up in these estates in south London – especially the Elephant. Where else is there to go? This is the starting point for so many people who come to London. Everything comes through here – the Old Kent is the A2, which runs from Dover to London – that’s why you have all these coaches coming through reading ‘POLSKI’ or whatever. And everyone here has a story to tell.”
It’s true that the Elephant feels like a clearing house – and that is part of it’s attraction. Living here is, quite literally, like standing on a platform looking out on the rest of London. Even late at night, it buzzes with motion – another major autoroute runs along the other estate building to the south. The noise from the New Kent, Walworth, Heygate Road continues all night – a hum of decelerating diesel engines, clattering trains, car horns, the gereral ebb and flow of whooshing traffic. Yet, in between the traffic, you can still hear the rustle of leaves across concrete, the whispering of the wind through the tree branches.