Fibreglass sharks on the Regent's Canal

Lessons learned about life after living in Islington for six weeks

Or #thefutureisuncertain

Perhaps unaware it had an audience (albeit just three people) a duck wrestled with a slippery eel, slowly hacking at it while plunging it into the dark greenish water.

A short time later a swan caught a glance of itself in a canal boat window and banged angrily on the glass, hoping to be let in.

A bird feeding on Regent's Canal
This bird was unaware it had an audience as it treated itself to eel for dinner
A swan on Regent's Canal
Let me in ‘said’ the swan, let me in

When I used to live in Croydon going for a walk during the pandemic didn’t seem to have a point. I’d walk to the shops or to get to a bus stop or train station but did not get the hang of walking for the sake of it.

But I’ve been living in Islington for six weeks so sights like the wildlife above have become more commonplace.

This week’s Fiskal Policy is a thing about what I’ve learned during my time in the naughty north London.

By Islington I don’t mean the Almeida Theatre, Islington Academy and Nags Head type Islington I knew before.

I mean canalside Islington where within two minutes from my flat I can be by the canal with ducks, swans, and boats to be watched – and runners and cyclists to be dodged.

It’s a place with fibreglass sharks seemingly launching themselves out of the water and glass and steel towers gradually encroaching on the skyline to the east.

Fibreglass sharks on the Regent's Canal
I wasn’t lying about the fibreglass sharks
Islington's changing skyline
I get the feeling Islington’s skyline will look very different in the next few years
Not a bad view while eating dinner
Not a bad view while eating dinner

And on warm nights (and cool nights if wearing a coat) it’s a place to sit with a can of lager, or a classy can of gin and tonic, or a bottle of wine.

So just what have I learned during the past six weeks?

I’ve edged closer to the side of the canal than when I moved here – but I still always fear I’ll fall in.

I’ve eaten in a lot (aka two) places where the food hasn’t been the best I’ve ever had but the views have been of the canal and the company has been great. For that reason I’m making the Narrowboat my new favourite summer pub and proclaiming Studio Kitchen a great canalside burger spot.

If living here is the closest I’ll get to a holiday (there’s nothing sadder than typing London into the “Where do you want to go? box” on AirBnB) this year then I’d be disappointed but happy that I’ve done something different with the early summer.

The view from the outside tables at the Narrowboat pub in Islington
The view from the outside tables at the Narrowboat pub in Islington
Canalside living
I don’t know how people afford to live near the canal in Islington
Living on the canal
I’d be very grateful if someone bought me a flat in the building on the right hand side

I’ve learned that the fear of crime is different than from where I’m from.

People think nothing about staring at their phone screens while walking along the canal, never imagining someone on a bike may indulge in a bit of Apple-picking.

When on the pavement, not the towpath, sticking to the middle is de rigueur. There isn’t the unofficial three lane system which has evolved over time in other towns – with runners and scooter riders next to the road, overtaking in the middle and slow people closest to the shops.

But the main thing I’ve learned came to me about halfway through my time in Islington as I sat in my basement flat typing something or other.

It came to me like a wave of sadness on a Friday afternoon because I realised I will never be successful enough to live here permanently.

Swiping right on Bumble hasn’t netted me a barrister and I’m not sure how people are finding enough money to pay for living here permanently.

Bridge on Regent's Canal
I’ll miss night time sights like this
Gin and tonic
A classy place for a gin and tonic
The summer is well and truly here
The summer is well and truly here

Basement flats like the one I’m living in seem to go for around £700k, so more than double the price of the area I’m used to for half the space.

One in a block I like the look of is going for £1.05m. Well, I say is going, it might now be went for because I saw it for sale six weeks ago.

If people are renting here, how much does it cost and how can they afford it?

If people have bought here, how much did it cost and how can they afford it?

And yes, this is me judging success by the cost of a property rather than by true happiness because, after all, what is happiness and does anyone ever achieve it?

A mix of the old and the new, canalside
A mix of the old and the new, canalside
Sharks in the dark
The sharks are there in all weathers, night and day – because they are not real

Happiness can change from day to day but if you have a nice place then it will – unless it is struck by lightning or catches fire – probably always be fairly nice.

But then if I ever had enough money to buy a basement flat in Islington near the canal would I do it or would I just buy a four bedroom house with a garden somewhere in the home counties?

Only time will tell – and while I’m waiting for time to tell I’m going to make the journey back to my real home in Croydon.

I’ll miss Islington and have so many more things I want to do here but my time is at an end (because the insurance company only paid for me to stay for six weeks).

Stay safe for another week!