Dear John

They started building that horrible big building at the end of our road a few months back, and I particularly hated it from the start, because it is being built so near the pavement, so much right into the point of the junction, and so high – cramming in as many flats as possible on a tiny plot.

For all the years we’ve been living here (seventeen) it was a car showroom, with an open forecourt area.  We always used to say that one day that space would get bought up so that the road junction could be made bigger.  It could really do with a big roundabout at that point, it’s such a tight turn.  But nothing so sensible took place – that’s why the building seemed to be particularly annoying, that it’s gone the opposite way.  Instead of opening up the space and making a better junction, they’ve crammed in new buildings on all the corners, making it tight and nasty.

Our main worry was the effect on parking – all these new blocks of flats with inadequate parking, all in such a small area.  And of course the pressure on the local buses, which are so packed anyway.  The bus stop around there, the nearest one to us, was always absolutely heaving with people anyway – it could only get worse with so many more flats being squeezed in locally.

So I already had an aversion to that building, especially the way it makes that end of the road feel cavernous, like it’s a great brooding cliff right above you.  You walked past that building site every day, and you used to point out to me how some of the floors were not even, how shoddily it was being built.

I can’t remember whether I was calling it ‘The Monolith’ before what happened.  Anyway, I have been since.

Because it was right round there, somewhere by that new building, that you had your collapse.  On your way to that bus stop, on the way to work.  So that horrible bit of street, with that horrible building towering above you, was the last bit of the world you ever saw (apart from your hospital bed, if you ever even registered that).

I still don’t walk that way, I’ll never walk that way.

For some reason, when I complained about the building beforehand, you would slightly disagree, and say you didn’t know why I had such an aversion to it, it wasn’t that bad.

You always had a theory that if only these new blocks would get some decent shops along the bottom of them – something like a Starbucks coffee bar, you used so say – then the area might improve because of it.

You were telling me for years that when the ‘Overground’ came to West Croydon, with its connections to Canary Wharf, West Croydon would ‘go up’ – but I’m not sure any such effect was ever evident.

Unfortunately, because of the way it’s been neglected since the riots, without the main buildings which burnt down (including the dry cleaners in which you had left a £200 suit!) ever having been replaced, it’s as grotty and nasty as ever.  (When my sister was staying, she called the area ‘Shabby’.)

So yes, I remember you sort of telling me off, that I was overreacting to The Monolith going up on the corner.

Maybe it was some sort of premonition or fate.  That it should become the site of your heart attack, and remain there as a horrible, hateful memorial to the place where you collapsed – the place where you took your exit from the world, the place where I lost you.

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