My on-off-on-again love affair with Croydon

By - Tuesday 29th May, 2018

How one woman fell head over heels for CR0… eventually

Photo by Brad Merrett, used with permission.

I’m a Brixton girl. Born. Bred. Raised.

Twenty-five years were spent being twenty-five minutes away from the heart of London and therefore, in my mind, the centre of the earth. I wore, and still do to a degree, my Brixton badge with undulated pride often to the confusion of others.

But, it’s Brixton? What about the riots? Aren’t you scared going home late at night?

Not me. It was home, I was hard and I bloody loved it.

Having schooled it near Croydon, all of my mates were from there. I was a Saturday girl in the Whitgift Centre. I might as well have had shares in Tiger Tiger and went on first dates in The Treehouse – always with the underlying knowledge, though, that I was simply going to where the crowds were.

Resentfully, and through gritted teeth, would I travel on the 109, wishing that my mates would want a night out in Soho rather than another night on the SoCo and lemonades in Lloyds. I longed for late nights in the West End, venturing into Shoreditch for the first time ever, relishing in the heady heights of Hoxton.

“I can’t live out of Zone 2. Over my dead body”

“I’d never live in Croydon, over my dead body”, I’d say often when the subject of moving out of home was broached amongst our naive, doe-eyed, twenty-two-year old group. “I can’t be out of Zone 2, and I can’t tell people that I live in Croydon. Can you imagine?”, I’d follow up, still rolling my eyes at every suggestion of another night in The Goose, but going along anyway.

Twenty-five came, as did the urge to move out of my mum and dad’s Brixton bosom. Along with the urge came the stark reality that my admin-heavy, salary-light job could afford me little more than an airing cupboard near home.

I wrangled with this for months. I can’t move further out. I can’t. Brixton was finally cool. Mates were getting the 109 the other way. Meeting me near home for a drink, coming to me to grab a bite to eat. If I wanted my independence, I’d have to leave that, and my weeny cheap commute, far behind. The pride-swallowing was quite something – but to CR0 I came. I moved, and having my own place, with one of my oldest, greatest and most Croydon mates made up for the times that I would dodge the ‘where do you live?’ question at work.

Despite saying I’d never live in Croydon… here I was

I was there, and I didn’t hate it, but I still couldn’t admit it anyone else. I was living in Croydon despite mouthing off for years about how it would never happen. Despite thinking that because I was from Brixton, of all places, it made moving here a step backwards.

Four years later, I’m still here. Older, wiser and less blinkered to postcode bias. And guess what?

I love it.

Towards the end of my time, and my parents’, in Brixton, things changed dramatically. The rough-diamond quality of our little borough became too polished, too cheese-come-prohibition-bar heavy, too hipster. And it doesn’t suit it. The place has changed, the people have, and the heart’s started to go. Brixton stopped feeling like Brixton.

Croydon’s still Croydon. Yes there’s a Boxpark, yes there’s new craft beer taps at every turn, yes there’s actual art on the walls. But it’s all been done with a bit of a tongue in the cheek, a bit of a ‘we know what we are but this a bit of fun’, we’re still that rough diamond that you’re looking for. And from the nights resenting my trips on the 109 came a new-found fondness for the place that I now call home.

I’ll always be the girl from Brixton.

But I’m happy to be the girl from Croydon, too.

Jo Irwin

Jo Irwin

Jo Irwin is a blogger, all round pencil pusher and new-bod author from South London. Over the last few years she’s found herself writing for Cosmo, Metro UK and Time Out London about everything from panic attacks to periods to Peroni. Her work whittering on about affairs of the brain found her involved with the Heads Together campaign last March, flying her from Buckingham Palace to Geneva talking about her mental health experiences, and asking the people to start speaking up about theirs. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about it.

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  • PS2

    Well done Jo! Croydon born and raised. I’ll always live here…

  • Jonny Rose

    Hi Jo,

    I’m glad you finally saw sense and migrated to Croydon! Thanks for all the great articles you’ve been penning about Croydon in the national media over the years – whether you like it or not you’re now part of the war effort to make Croydon cool :)

  • Nicki

    I’m a Tottenham gal myself but I did do a stint in West Croydon for more than three years before I moved on. I am proud of being a Tottenhamite but I did feel when I moved into Croydon more than 20 years that it was an upward climb, if you know what I mean. It was calm and genteel but also had the feeling that it was ambitious and wanted to make progress. I’m trying to put together a memoir of my moves around England and other countries and Croydon is definitely included.