I regret leaving North London
Hi, my name is, well, it’s not important but let’s just call me Arvup. I want to tell you my story and hope it will serve as a warning.
Almost 10 years ago I emigrated to England in search of fame, fortune and my life-long dream. As a child I used to dream of living in North London. There was this wonderful building, the best in all of London, where every apartment was beautifully decorated and anyone who lived there was worshipped by the locals (and admirers from afar too).
It was a building with a rich and wonderful history. It reached the peak of its splendour just before World War Two but slowly fell into disrepair. A building this wonderful was always going to hold nostalgic and magical appeal and despite more popular complexes springing up in the north this building had a few mini-revivals and short lived renovations in the 70s and 80s.
In the middle of the 80s the building got a new landlord, a man with a history in armaments and border defence, who worked hard to bring the building back to its former glory but left under a cloud when irregularities were exposed in some of his planning applications.
The building lost its sheen and became dull and grey and ridiculed like the boring but functional purpose built towns of Bracknell and Milton Keynes. Despite this, the building attracted a new tenant and this is where my love story started.
In the mid-90s, the luxury and coruscation of the buildings past had been forgotten and impressions and memories were replaced with this view of an uninspiring, flat-packed self-build…. but then he came.
A Dutch artist took over the penthouse apartment and a buzz filled the air. It was fair to say that his star had dimmed a little due to an unsuccessful exhibition of his artwork in Milan where his progressive and bold brush-strokes were not well received.
This man was my hero. As the son of artists I have always had an appreciation of art but he ignited a fire inside me with his ingenuity with the canvas and mastery of the brush. I wanted to be him and that meant one day living in that building and hopefully taking over the penthouse.
Not long after my hero moved into the penthouse an architect from France became the new landlord. This French architect had massive ideas and plans for the building. He spent years renovating the building and took it beyond the splendour of the 1930s.
The architect had adorned the walls with fine paintings, portraits and tapestries created by the collection of artists, poets and composers that lived within the building. They had come from all over the globe, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, South America, Africa, to live in this wonderful building under the landlordship of the architect.
I worked hard on my art in the hope that the architect would one day wish to hang my canvas in the glorious atrium of his wonderful building. And in 2004 my prayers were answered. The architect recognised my potential and asked me to move into the building and learn from my hero.
My early time at the building was a happy one but slowly the tenants started to leave. Some for warmer climes to suit their ageing bones. Some to retirement villages. Whatever the reason, they all eventually left but it was not all bad.
The architect had explained his plan to me. The building was to be demolished and a new, grand ziggurat of modern sculpture, technology and idealism would be built in its place. It would become a new adytum for the arts. It would house art, poetry, symphonies, theatre, opera, compositions and be adorned with gold and silver.
It was to be an Eden of Art where the work of the greats of the past would be honoured but it would be founded upon, and display, the works of wonderful new talents – a modern renaissance.
The project made me salivate. I was to be part of a two-pronged spearhead leading the way as we marched into the sun to etch our names on the walls of history. Then fate struck me down; I was unable to paint.
I spent less time with the canvas and more time in my sickbed, staring longingly at my brushes. Some days I managed to get out of bed to paint but it was never enough. Without my art to sell I could not afford the rent but the landlord took pity on me and allowed me much more than basic bed and board without charge.
Without the income from my artwork the building struggled to reach the heights we had planned on and year after year went by with no honour or award for our creations. Tenants grew weary of our project and broke their tenancy agreements to join other buildings where a better chance of winning a building award was promised.
The architect took this in his stride and worked hard to unearth new talent who would buy into his dream for the building but even those once pure souls were corrupted by the devils promise elsewhere and forced us down from the precipice of greatness to the pit of despair where we must try to once again scrabble our way up towards where we wish to be.
As my strength returned to me, I vowed to repay the architects love and support by creating new works of art, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before and none had expect to come from me.
My work sold well and we could see the fruit of our ambition budding on the tree of industry. We were so close to achieving greatness and then, just before the reopening of the building competition, our brightest rising star and our last great hope, the greatest maestro on the planet, abandoned ship in search of greener pastures. They had become weary of waiting for our grass to grow and cared not for the sweeter taste of that which is painfully and lovingly cultivated but for the sating comfort of instant gratification.
The architect brought in a few new tenants but they underwhelmed me. Their reputations were solid but unspectacular and their talent paled in comparison to those whose apartments and workshops they now resided in.
Another year went past without recognition, although I did win some individual praise, and the corruption had started to take hold of me. I sat down with the architect and his accountant and expressed my desire for better tenants and after receiving no guarantees I made the easy decision to forsake the support and trust of the architect and join his great rival in the north.
The opulence and decadence of those northern devils corrupted my very soul and all I could see was the glint of the prize at the end of the tunnel which for the first time looked straight and simple, free of the kinks and unexpected bends I had come to expect in the catacombs of the great building I had left behind.
I comforted myself with the love I was receiving from the locals and the knowledge that my new landlord was the most decorated, feared and respected landlord in the history of my adopted country. I had his trust and he had mine. Together, he told me, we would achieve wonders and for the first time in a while the fire inside of me burned with a raging passion I had thought lost during my disease stricken twenties.
Finally I was living with shining stars once again, artists, composers and poets who knew what it took to win the greatest building award and within 10 months, we had.
My old landlord had brought in some promising and exciting talent during that time but still finished fourth in the buildings table and I knew I had made the right decision. But that was then.
Just as we won the buildings award our great landlord sold the deed to a younger landlord who had cut his teeth at a small arts centre down the road. I was shocked, I had expected us to be together for a long-time and now I was expected to welcome a new landlord with a new style.
The old landlord said it would all be okay and he had hand-picked his successor to ensure continuity. The new landlord looked to bring in new tenants but struggled to attract any painters, men of words or composers of note and was forced to settle for a Belgian jazz singer from his old arts centre.
Meanwhile the architect had filled the penthouse with a great German maestro, who some believe to be better that the last great hope who left the year before I. The German maestro had been conducting wonderful symphonies in Madrid so to see him in North London was a shock to the entire art community.
I admit to being surprised but I was not worried as we were the reigning building champions and one star tenant would not make up for the rest of the average tenant roster.
How wrong I was.
Our new landlord quickly ran into some problems and so far has not been able to fix them. The building foundations are weak and we are at severe risk of subsidence. The pipes are full of blockages so nothing flows properly. The door hinges are all squeaky and paint is flaking on the ceilings.
As a result our art is suffering. The painters need beautiful music to inspire our masterpieces but the compositions are lacking. Classical music and jazz singing are not complementary and the disjointed sound is affecting our brush-strokes.
Meanwhile at my old building, everything is working in exquisite unity. The composers that underwhelmed me are harmonising with one another, the conductors have everything almost note perfect. The painters are working together to blend styles and paint in a way I haven’t seen in a long time and did not expect from them. They are creating canvasses together that artists like me create on their own but it is even more beautiful as you can see each distinct brush-stroke yet they are simultaneously indistinguishable.
The words of the poets drip gently into your ear and mingles with the composers melodies with a delightful organic fluidity as though they always belonged together. And it is because of this I now understand. This was always the plan.
It wasn’t about unearthing and polishing great diamonds instead of just attracting existing talents. It was about bringing together a group of precious stones and setting them perfectly together to create a dazzling display of pulchritude.
My old building may not win one of the building prizes this year but the architect’s vision looks to finally be achievable and I ruined the chance of being a part of that.
My only hope is that the architect can see a way to bring me back to his vision but I do not think this is possible. I can only wait patiently for my tenancy agreement to end or cross my fingers that the landlord sorts something out soon because the roof is leaking and the heating has packed in.
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