London

HECTIC OR HEAVENLY?

Words Zoe Dowset

Big Ben takes pride of place in the city centre near to the houses of parliament.
Photo: Aidas Zubkonis, from www.sxc.hu

London attracts 26 million tourists a year, half of those being from abroad. Despite its popularity, if you ask a Londoner what they think of the capital, most will struggle to come up with even a couple of positives. So why does England’s capital have such an allure for tourists and why is it hated so much by locals?

Most tourists’ first visit will normally consist of seeing Buckingham Palace, The London eye, Big Ben and the Tate modern art gallery. All are worth a visit and show the city at its best historically and culturally. However, these attractions are located in the very centre of London so anyone visiting them should be prepared to run into the stereotypical unfriendly London city worker. Central London attractions are best avoided during the week, so it is definitely worth diverting from the tourist track.

Alternative London

A favourite for visitors is Camden Locke, which is renowned for its gothic culture, music venues and street markets located in a converted stable. Brick lane is in a similar vein to Camden and attracts everything artistic and bohemian about London, from fashion to festivals, retail to restaurants it’s a must for anyone wanting to experience the city outside of the confines of the hectic city centre. The boroughs chequered past makes it all the more interesting. The area – which was the scene of many of the killings by notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper and the pub he (and some of his victims) used to frequent – still stands. Fast forward a couple hundred years and Brick lane is now home to London’s Bangladeshi community and boasts one of London’s best alternative markets.

London is a notoriously fashion conscious city. London fashion week is a central event in the fashion calendar, which is a week full of fashion shows and events show casing up and coming and established designers, take place all over the city. The city is awash with supermodels and industry insiders during fashion week; all adorned in next season Prada. For people on a more modest budget, Oxford Street and Bond Street are the most well known and popular destinations in London for clothes shopping. Normally they are flocked with tourists, but this week the number seems to triple. Many locals consider these areas too hectic and commercial, preferring the kookier Portobello market in the east of London and the classical boutiques in central Covent Garden.

Negative aspects of the city

London buses, the iconic and most popular transport method for tourists in this city.
Photo: Christia Richert, from www.sxc.hu

Despite the amount it is normally loved by people visiting, Londoners are extremely critical of the city in comparison. One of the most hated things about London by locals is the transport system. Despised by most people who use it regularly and confusing to first timers, the London Underground tube is still the most effective way to travel the city. During busy periods, however the tube is one of the worst places in London to be. Thousands of city workers and tourists cram into the tiny carriages, making Cape Town trains seem like a luxury. London buses, however iconic their image may be are unreliable at the best of times and seem to be nonexistent at the worst. Taxis are expensive and avoid the rickshaw at all costs which are basically horse and carts except in place of the horse, there’s an exhausted driver.

A divided city

Despite being one of the most vibrant and exciting cities, London also has a bleaker, greyer side to life that doesn’t involve the weather. Although the disparity of wealth in Cape Town is unbalanced, it is nothing in comparison to how wealth is dispersed amongst Londoner’s. It is arguably the most economically unequal major city in the world, the richest tenth of the population earning 273 times more than the poorest tenth. Although the amount of people living in poverty is nowhere near comparable to that of Cape Town the amount of people rich earning far beyond the national average is huge in London.

The deprived areas of London are rarely portrayed in films and foreign media.
Photo: Carl Ratcliffe, from www.sxc.hu

The gap in wealth and social status makes for not only separate incomes, but separate lives. Visiting the financial district Canary wharf transports you into a bubble of stony faced business men with Blackberry phones permanently attached to their hands and expensive bars and restaurants. A ten minute tube ride away would easily take you to a deprived area of North London with low wages and a high crime rate. The two parts of London live side by side, yet seem oblivious to each other. Probably one of the most despised things about the city by Londoners is the way in which the situation is accepting the divide as ‘unfortunate but inevitable’. In Cape Town the difference in lifestyle between the rich and the poor seems less dramatic and also a lesser sense of resentment towards each other. People in Cape Town seem less concerned about material possessions; one of the things London is certainly guilty of inducing. Although the amount of tempting shops are ideal when you have unlimited money to spend, for people on a normal wage, they inevitably debt inducing and can become highly addictive as the pressure to keep up with trends and styles is almost unavoidable.

Despite the coldness of the weather and often the people, I love living in London. There’s nowhere in England that compares in terms of culture, nightlife and where there is the opportunity to do something different every day. It has its faults, but every city does and if you can look past the negative attitudes of some of the residents then it is an amazing and exciting place to live and visit.

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 Issue No 7

Cover story

Man vs Wave - A SOUTH AFRICAN LEGACY

Video Reporting

Inspired Youth Programme

In 2014 Dene Botha, the founder and managing director of Pride Factor, had a simple dream - to make a difference in the lives of teenagers in South Africa. Now two years later he has teamed up with Greg Secker of the Greg Secker Foundation to create the Inspired Youth Programme. A platform that is not only opening new doors for the youth of South Africa, it is shattering the outdated mind-set of what it means to be a successful and to achieve one's passions and dreams.

Mental Health in South Africa

Mental heath has been a mystery that has eluded the world for ages. While society continues to make exponential strides in diagnosing and treating physical illness somehow mental illness has fallen behind in every aspect from education and awareness to funding and treatment. So this poses an important question. Why doesn't society have a better understanding of mental illness?

World of Birds

More than four decades ago Walter Mangold was an average Capetonian who had a knack for taking care of sick or injured birds that he came across in his local area. Word quickly spread and he was soon dubbed the 'Bird Man', with people constantly handing in injured birds to him to care for. His undeniable passion to help wildlife evolved, and in the mid 1970s he opened World of Birds in Hout Bay, a sanctuary where he housed and cared for his hundreds of injured birds and small mammals, giving them hope for a healthier and safe life. Today, World of Birds is the largest bird park in Africa and is home to more than 3,000 animals that range from squawking macaws to cheeky monkeys.

Bonnytoun

There are eight of us in the car; myself, five Projects Abroad volunteers from the human rights office, our coordinator and our driver. As we drive through the gates of Bonnytoun we are met with high walls, barbed wire fences and uniformed officers, and I begin to feel slightly nervous at my decision to visit this boys' juvenile detention centre.

Zerilda Park Primary

It was barely nine o'clock in the morning when the parent burst into the office. 'There's nothing wrong with my child, i's your school that's the problem!' The parent is shaking with anger as he approaches the principal's desk. After 40 years of teaching, the principal is used to people blaming her, yet she still has vast amounts of empathy.

Projects Abroad Nutrition Project

According to UNICEF, many of the global under-five deaths occur in children already weakened by malnutrition. In 2010 this amounted to 4.2% of children under-five in the Western Cape being diagnosed as suffering severe malnutrition. On the opposite end of the scale, we have the South African Medical Research Council reporting that nearly 70% of South African women are both overweight and obese. This means its not uncommon to have an overweight parent, with an under-nourished child in the same family.

Aquila Private Game Reserve Safari

I had never been on a safari before, and after a month in Cape Town, planning and organising various tours and excursions, I finally found the time to experience a safari adventure! Located in the historic town of Touws Rivier, in a valley between the Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Karoo, my roommate, Melodie and I hopped into a taxi that took us to the Aquila Private Game Reserve.

Housing the poor

We all dream of owning our dream home. We plan, save and look forward to the day we can call a house our own. However, for most people who live in the Mitchell's Plain area in Cape Town, four walls and a roof can remain a distant dream.

High School Dropouts

President Jacob Zuma recently said that education is the government's number one priority, and it should be, because along with the celebration of the good matric results of 2013 came the shocking revelation that out of the 1,261,827 pupils who started Grade 1 in 2002, 699,715 of them dropped out of school before their final exams in Grade 12 last year.

Tik Abuse

Tik, the local name for crystal methamphetamine, is an addictive central nervous system stimulant ruining the lives of thousands on the Cape Flats of the Western Cape. In fact, Ashley Potts from the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) says that on average in 2013, 20% of school-going youth were actively using crystal meth.

Building & Community Project

When visitors arrive in Cape Town, one of the first things they are told is to be careful of going into the townships. Unfortunately, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with more than 36% of the population unemployed. The poorest 10% of the population are only able to contribute 1.2% to national revenue whereas the richest 10% contribute 51.7% of this revenue, according to statistiques-mondiales.com. Add to this the fact that the urban population is relatively high (62% in 2012; which is more than the international average of 52%, according to the same source), it is no surprise to see hundreds of makeshift houses on the drive from the airport to town. These shacks, composed of sheet metal and other materials, form what look like small cities, and such a densely packed population often brings about violence and crime.

Hip-Hop Dance

‘Release your energy in a positive way.’ That’s the role of hip-hop dance according to award winner Emile Jansen, pioneer of hip-hop dance in South Africa and founding member of Black Noise and creator of Heal the Hood organisation. For Emile, dancing is all about letting off steam, but in a creative way. Growing up during the apartheid era made dancing extremely important because it was a free-style activity you could do without being characterised by the colour of their skin. ‘It’s all about your skill. It’s not about how rich you are or the colour of your skin, it’s about the skill you bring to the floor,’ Emile says.