180 days a year (bar the days I was ill or bunked and escaped to Molly’s house) I walked up – and back down – Deptford high street.In the mornings it was a colour clash of poo brown Addey and Stanhope uniforms and Deptford Green’s neon green jumpers. The shittest of walks up the high street was when one of the men working in the Cod Father – one of the many fish shops there – threw a huge bucket of fishy ice water straight over me from the waist down. Dousing my Clarke’s in the foulest smell, which I don’t think helped my popularity that day.
Not long after the fish water incident, I had an argument with a boy in my year (he was horrid) and on my walk home with my buddy Riley, he started jeering at us. Probably something along the lines of us being ‘neeks’ and reading in the playground. I was, admittedly, at this point in my life a ‘neek’ but I wasn’t a push over. I was certainly giving it back. As we approached some market stalls, he grabbed a cabbage off the stall and lobbed it at my head – legging it as soon as he had witnessed it fly into my face. I was gobsmacked (literally) and very apologetic to the market trader who was not pleased in the slightest.
My mum did a good job of being supportive in the cabbage ordeal, and I trotted back into school, straight to my form tutor to fill out an incident report. I think she was trying to remain professional but now I look back on it, she did ask ‘did you feel threatened by the cabbage?’ I’m sure inside and possibly in the staff room, she was laughing.
There was also the ‘save the snails’ campaign, headed by no other than me and Riley the great martyrs of Deptford (this was a serious cause)
A couple of the food shops along the high street would import these huge African snails and they were left uncovered in their polystyrene crates. On the day of delivery, they were quite moist and would slither up the side of their container wiggling their antennae happily. Sometimes they’d require the person selling to poke them back down into the bottom of the box. Come the second day, a few (un)lucky snails would’ve been bought and the remaining ones were starting to look a bit sorry and dry. By the end of the week, the few remaining looked like shrivelled up cats bums, their shell swallowing them. Completely horrified by the deaths of these innocent molluscs I drew up a petition to put an end to the cruelty they suffered. That also got laughed at as I asked for signatures around the playground. I didn’t get too far with that campaign.
A few years later, on the same journey back home from school there was a lot of squawking and angry Arabic shouting coming from further down the high street. Everyone started to walk up, no one wanted to miss a fight of course. The next thing I see is a live chicken running for its life, ducking and diving through the crowds of people on the high street. I’ve never seen something move it’s little legs so fast, and behind it were three men barging through the same crowds of people after it.
Deptford high street is definitely the first place that I noticed gentrification in mass form. A new clothes shop opened at the second half of the market and I assumed it was a charity shop to join the other ones (that I had already bought a couple of dodgy items from) so off I skipped in my school uniform, and picked a gorgeous Arron cardigan out and pulled it on over my blazer. The shop assistant hovered near by and gently said ‘do you need any help?’, I looked around and did realise that everything in there looked a bit too nice, and took off the cardigan and looked at the price label, £170!
I picked up my Tesco carrier bag, full of my school books, and left the shop pretty quickly.
Fast forward 5 years since moved out of Deptford and my route to school is unrecognisable.
Job centre used to be just that, now it’s a hipster pub – still called the Job Centre – full of those in vintage (probably from Rag n Bone) and grubby Stan smiths. There is a Tesco and an Asda when all we knew before was Kim’s Newsagents, there’s various ‘cool’ cafes that serve avocado toast and chips in tin camping mugs. Don’t get me wrong, I am partial to the odd wanky breakfast but I can’t help but feel a bit sad that Deptford has lost some of its fishy aroma and continues to alienate its former residents.