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A Yard of One’s Own

In a monthly column for The Basement — 'London, I Love You But I Don't Like You Right Now' — writer Zakiyyah Deen shares her experiences of being a young person in the capital.

I have come to the conclusion that the people that run this country want us dead. They hate us and I have no other explanation for it.

We are in the midst of a political, climatical (dunno if that’s a word) and humanitarian crisis yet the powers that be think its the perfect time to raise the cost of living. Meanwhile, our mental health and salaries are plummeting. It’s not making sense. Listen, I’m not a complete idiot. I have a brief understanding of how economics works. I know that it is not as simple as printing more money to match the rate of inflation. I also know that the Panettone has done a madness to the global economy. But we have all suffered. Why must we suffer more’o?

A carton of orange juice is nearly a fiver, housing prices are really pricing, and our nans can’t afford their electric bill. And don’t even get me started on TFL. It’s peak. You’re telling me they want us to save money, invest money, give to charity, have a social life, buy food, support our families, treat ourselves (every now and then) AND pay rent? Myth. To make matters worse, the rent and house prices are climbing exponentially with no prospect of relaxing anytime soon. And the amount I’m earning in comparison does not correlate.

I’ve been trying to move out of my mum’s yard since the day I turned 18. Mumzy and I get on relatively well, and I can’t deny how blessed I am to have a safe place I can call home. But in all honesty, it’s time to bounce. Me, my mum and my little sister are all bright, funny and opinionated black women. Which means the majority of our time is spent having funny discussions and impromptu dining room dancehall raves. But other times there are riots, with sarcasm and sassiness used as ammunition. Don’t get it twisted – our house is full of nuff love, and disagreements amongst family members is normal. But I’m sure we would be able to radiate a lot more love if we had a likkle more space to do so.

If you haven’t guessed already from my occasional use of MLE slang, I am a Londoner. Born and bred. And although I have a love-hate relationship with this screwface capital, I would consider it home. Apart from back a’ yard. Which is home home (you diasporic descendents know what I mean.) If I want to rent, I have to rent in London. I refuse to live in cunch where I have to play spot the black and have limited access to seasoned food and afro hair products.

I don’t come from a family with money, so I didn’t receive a car on my 18th birthday or a lump sum to help me through uni or buy a house. (I’m not coming for those of you that did btw. So calm your privileged tits.) Consequently, I have to raise the funds by myself. But the older I’m getting, the more I’m starting to realise that renting and/or buying a house in London is a myth. The other night, I was scrolling on one of my favourite online real estate websites. I’m sure you do this too. You know, when you set the sort engine to the highest price and pretend you have the P to actually live there. (Deep down you know you are selling yourself a dream, but at least dreams are free so you have a browse anyway.)

“Nah. This mansion only has 4 floors – I need 5. This garden’s pool isn’t big enough. I wonder if they can do an extension on the garage for my G wagon.”

Ha! What G Wagon? Who am I kidding? I can barely afford TFL. Matter of fact, I couldn’t even afford the shoe box of a flat they’re tryna sell me for two grand a month. Gone are the days where we had easy access to affordable or council housing. They have to house those that are vulnerable/ in need first (and rightly so), but it would seem that the people in charge can’t even do that.

London, I Love You But I Don't Like You Right Now - Zakiyyah Deen - Column - A Yard Of One's Own

It’s not even like those of us that can stay at home or share with friends have it drastically better. Energy prices and internal housing expenses are brazy. They say they are stopping TV license fees “to support families in the face of rising living costs,” but none of us where paying it anyway so in reality this means fuck all. Furthermore, saving to buy is another story. Apparently, It takes the average Londoner 10 years to save for a house. And that’s just the deposit bruv. Have you not seen the state of our climate, let alone caught up with global politics?


In an alternate reality, I would say bun Babylon and go live off-grid. Live off the land in a converted sprinter van and only interact with civilisation for hydration and sanitation purposes. And hats off to those that have said fuck capitalism and done it. But this isn’t my reality, and I’m not big enough, bad enough or brave enough to do so. (I’m not a dickhead though. Don’t get it twisted.)

Although I’m making a joke of the matter (because if we don’t laugh, we cry), the fact of the matter is the cost of living and lack of support can (and will) be detrimental for some. As a young person that relied on affordable housing, benefits and free school meals, seeing all of this and the working class being neglected really breaks my heart man. I can’t even front.

We gotta do something though, because we can’t let this come and kill us. They are already trying to do so in so many other ways. And I know that got a little bit deep for a second, but sometimes you gotta. We see economic inequality and polarisation already mashing up communities and we can’t continue to let it happen. I don’t have the answers innit. But when we notice shit we have to call it out – even when it is close to home.

So, as I always say:

London, I love you but I don’t like you right now.

The way you are moving right now, you are making it incredibly hard to love. So in other words…FIX UP.

‘London, I Love You But I Don’t Like You Right Now’ is a new column by Zakiyyah Deen. Zak is a writer and actor from London, whose work saw her awarded runner-up in The Guardian and gal-dem young black writers competition, judged by Queenie author Candice Carty-Williams.