Leading slacker website, Deserter, publishes unique portraits of South London neighbourhoods, alongside its libertarian lifestyle pieces. Today South London, Tomorrow South London will be a collection of these excursions - with new and updated material - capturing the people, places and unlikely pleasures below the river, at a remarkable point in the area's history.
The authors, under their noms de plume, Dulwich Raider and Dirty South, explore South London’s ignored, unfashionable marvels on urban adventures and off-beat days out, often in the company of ne’er do well pals, Half-life and Roxy.
The reader will inadvertently learn of the history underpinning the place, meet the characters that lend it colour and discover secrets that can only be gleaned from many years of dedicated messing about. With trips to cemeteries, galleries, hospitals, pubs and the Old Kent Road branch of Staples, Today South London, Tomorrow South London is not only an (alt) guide to the area but a snapshot of a pivotal period for it, a time of regeneration and gentrification. It will explore how, despite these changes, the magic, the shit and the glitter endures.
South London features - albeit mainly tangentially - in generic guide books like The Rough Guide to London, collections of various writing like Walter Besant’s South London, primarily photographic books like Shit London or London Villages, or in weighty tomes like Ben Judah’s This is London or Peter Ackroyd’s London: A Biography.
None offer an insight into contemporary South London, particularly one from the point of view of its slacker inhabitants. No one is considering South London, the playground, nor offering a guide to the area through the experiences of real South Londoners. Until now.
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“Would you like to do anything special for your birthday?” my mother would ask and, as always, I was ready with my answer.
“I wanna go on the London trains, Mama!” I said. Her face registered the merest flicker of disappointment – I was 24 years old at the time, to be fair – but then broke into a brave smile.
“Of course, darling, the trains, again,” she said.
And so it is that I am able to reach back in time and introduce you to one of the world’s great train journeys: London Bridge to Charing Cross. And back.
London is re-fashioning itself into a glass and steel any-city and while this particular route showcases many of these changes, there are still plenty of the sooty, Dickensian brick edifices of Old London Town to be seen along the way. Catch them while you can.
And what better way to get the feel of a city than a rickety elevated ride through it at five miles an hour? Slow enough to see people’s expressions or what they’re having for tea, brief enough to leave plenty of time for messing about at either end – even if you are forced by Capitalism to make the trip during your lunch hour.
Incidentally, do not under any circumstances attempt this journey during the rush hour. You will spend it in a crush of ashen-eyed automata and will be lucky to escape with your soul. No, the ideal time is between 11am and 4pm on a weekday, when you can happily lay your hat on the seat next to you.
(I would also recommend a Sunday, although this can be risky as Transport for London often chooses Sundays to do its so-called maintenance – a national disgrace. Why should maintenance be done on a holiday, the people’s day? The worker’s free day? It’s even Our Lord’s day, for crying out loud. Can you honestly see God cocking about with rail replacement buses? It’s not only rude, it’s fucking blasphemous.)
Before your journey commences, leave sufficient time to prepare suitable clothing, sustenance and good company – the holy trinity of good travel cheer. Clothing should, of course, be appropriate for your destination as well as your departure. I chose a simple shorts and t-shirt combination, Poundshop cowboy hat and some flip-flops to put on in north London where walking barefoot is frowned upon.
Entertaining and knowledgeable company is a boon for any journey. Sadly, I was unable to find any so I had to make do with long-time Deserter associate, Half-life, who sported a gabardine suit with spats and accompanied me to Borough Market to pick up some supplies for the trip. I left him propping up The Market Porter while I elbowed my way through groups of tourists photographing cheese to purchase a Mrs King’s Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.
Our preparation complete, we headed to London Bridge station.
The good thing about this journey is that no interrogation of timetables is required. Trains leave for Charing Cross approximately every three minutes and journey time is either nine or 14 minutes, depending on who you believe.
Thanks to you, we've hit our funding target. This book is going to happen!
What happens next?
We're not sure, but first things first, a lovely pint. Then, we suppose, the arduous task of hiring half a dozen unpaid interns to start work on the writing.
As long as our Unbound page is marked "Writing in progress", you can still pledge for the book, purchase a copy in advance and/or choose…
As well as longer pieces celebrating the less well-known opportunities afforded by South London, our book will also feature bite-sized facts that we were almost certainly too lazy to turn into full articles.
We call them "Facticles", I'm afraid. And here's a sample.
Borough’s Market Porter would seem to have it all: a market edge location, a superb range of well-kept ales…
by Dirty South
Contrary to popular belief, Deserter has been a hive of industry during our campaign to fund our book, Today South London, Tomorrow South London. Why only yesterday the Dulwich Raider leapt up from his desk and turned his music off so he could focus on the blank page.
After a few excruciating moments of silence he turned it back on, exclaiming, “Do you mind? I’m beginning…
By Dulwich Raider
All great writers have their own, unique methodology and I am no difference.
In this update I have been asked to share my writing secrets with you, as I have apparently agreed to write a book.
I think of writing as a destination. The role of the writer is simply to remove the obstacles along the path to this place.
Firstly, all personal admin should be dealt…
by Dirty South
No matter what the artist Francis Bacon did the night before - and it was usually a ton of booze and rough sex - he would be at his easel by 6am demonstrating his extraordinary gift.
That’s the kind of work ethic we were going to need in order to put together a catalogue of the best days out South London can offer, in tales woven by colourful characters throughout the…
We are delighted to report that broadcaster, journalist and author, Ned Boulting has agreed to write the foreword for Deserter’s book with Unbound.
Ned has been an avid reader of Deserter from our early days, being lucky enough to have settled in the bejewelled boroughs of South London during his 20-year TV career.
He once tweeted: "Anyone with London in their hearts, especially the mystifyingly…
First of all, thank you to everyone who has pledged so far. It means a lot, despite the fact that we will actually have to do some work to get the book done, which is a shame.
In this first update, we thought we'd introduce the illustrator for the project, Emily Medley.
Emily Medley lived in North, East, Central and West London for over ten years before she finally saw the light and headed…
These people are helping to fund Deserter presents: Today South London, Tomorrow South London.