Acid, and not the good, trippy kind.

Acid, and not the good, trippy kind.

Once upon a time you could walk around Mile End fancy-free and not be attacked randomly, on the violent and sickening whim of disgusting, feral subhumans with not a care for publ… I can’t keep a straight face with that, I can’t hand on heart say that East London has always been safe. I once had a full can of coke thrown at me from a moving car, for wearing an Asda uniform, “ASDA, YOU PRICK!” *WHACK*. One thing I could always say is that I could walk around Stepney and wouldn’t have sulphuric face reorganiser splashed all over my boat. I’d get the occasional, “Where you from, Bruv?” or a “What you looking at?” but never anything that warranted more than a swift put down, certainly not spraying someone in the face with a liquid that leaves them looking somewhere between an avocado and Simon Weston.

 

East London needs a Judge Dredd type that just teabags the bullet-riddled bodies of the delinquents that use acid in attacks. What happened to just giving someone a slap? If you got a slap, you’d feel bad and hate yourself for a while, but you’d live. You might not be able to look at yourself in the mirror but, with acid you can’t look in the mirror because you haven’t got any fucking eyeballs left. Now the government want to raise the age of buying corrosives to 21, which doesn’t cover everyone. People like the boyfriend of Ferne McCann, the gutless taint that is Arthur Collins, who randomly acid attacked a club in Shoreditch, was 25-years-old. I’d love to staple a pair of bollocks to his forehead so it’d be the first time he owned a pair. Anyone who uses acid in attacks is a coward, I would’ve called him a pussy but pussies are useful.

 

Acid is just the latest instalment of the “remedial roadman weapon of the week club”. I just want to know what’s going through a DIY shop cashier’s mind when a 16-year-old wearing a stone island, sidebag and Air Max 95’s walks up to him with sulphuric acid. He’s hardly using it for a sixth form science project or for melting a jobbie down in the upstairs bathroom. I don’t know why we haven’t implemented a licencing system. A corrosive substances licence, we used to have licences for dogs like a Pomeranian is more dangerous. I actually thought that an acid licence was already a thing. I assumed common sense would dictate that you would control a substance that was made famous in Breaking Bad for liquifying bodies.

 

We need tighter controls on acid. They banned the good, trippy kind yet allow people to walk around with something that has the power to leave you looking like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s cum face. There is really no reason for the average person to need acid like that. In 26 years I have never encountered a situation that needed it. We need to licence acid. Aside from 6 acids, which are not permitted to be bought in concentrations higher than 40%, it is essentially an unregulated substance, and the main offenders aren’t even in those 6. You can buy hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid in any concentration under current law in Britain.

 

I really don’t see how such an oversight has been allowed to go on for so long. I can’t get on a plane with more than 100ml of Coke, but I can walk around the streets with a bottle of liquid cruciation.

 

More has to be done.

A symptom of a Failing System. A revision of “Too poor to live in safety”.

A symptom of a Failing System. A revision of “Too poor to live in safety”.

After my words about Grenfell, I sensed that certain, errr… “affluent” types weren’t quite getting what I meant by “Too poor to live in safety”. I didn’t think I had to spell it out but, hipsters being hipsters I felt I had to facetiously cram their thick frame Raybans so far down their throats that they can heat up the shit they were about to vocalise, simply by tilting their heads towards the sun.

 

The problem with Grenfell and others like it, is a complex one that goes back to Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980’s. I can’t speak for Grenfell per se but I can speak of East London, which has a similar problem that I understand from the ground up.

 

East London was primarily used for docking with docks such as St. Kathrine’s Dock handling goods from all over the world and various other docks, also manufacturing using factories all over East, with the famous “financial square mile” situated squarely in the City of London (think of it as a city, the City of London, sitting inside another huge city, London, or Greater London). Historically, the east has always been the poor area of London. This didn’t change through the centuries right up until the 1980’s and 90’s. A few big things happened, firstly Margaret Thatcher introduced a “Right to buy” scheme which encouraged council house tenants to “buy” their houses (no one really owned their council property, it was effectively a 100-year lease). Secondly, they built Canary Wharf right at the top of the Isle of Dogs. Smack bang in the middle of the East End where everyone can see it.

 

Why build Canary Wharf 5 miles from the City of London? It wasn’t going to offer jobs to the locals, most of our residents were labourers. We could help you build it but the business that would take place thereafter had no cockneys in mind. Furthermore, if they weren’t targeting cockneys, then who were they targeting to be the workforce in Canary Wharf? The answer is, the gentry. The people whose families could afford to send their children to university, to get the degrees necessary to do the jobs required in Canary Wharf. The trouble is getting the gentry to move to East London, at the time one of the poorest places in Britain.

 

This is where Maggie’s “right to buy” makes an appearance. Gentrification takes two forms, what I like to call “Infiltration” and “Reformative”. Right to buy appeals to the Infiltration method. It works by making the housing affordable with a mortgage, tempting the council tenant into “owning” their property seeing as they thought they could never own property. They now own it, property 10 minutes from Canary Wharf with good transport links, and now have the right to sell it. No one local could afford it, so they sell it to someone who can. The people who can afford it are the rich types, at the time yuppies, now it’s hipsters. They would generally avoid “ethnic” areas with “higher crime rates” (we have to remember racism plays a part too). They would move to “safer” parts of East, predominantly white, so there’s some kind of a connection. This created pockets of gentry that slowly spread out over time, infiltrating East London.

 

The second method started happening in the 1990’s and peaked in the 2000’s. The Reformative method. Every council estate had a kind of community, you probably knew your next-door neighbour at least. However, every council estate has its criminal element. So, if you provide poor education, poor wages, and very few opportunities to those in estates, and make them watch Canary Wharf grow in wealth while they struggle to find a pot to piss in, don’t be surprised if you see the crime rate in an area climb faster than Peter Kay’s cholesterol level. People will find their own way to make large sums of quick money. There’s only so long you can watch someone eat before you make yourself a sandwich. This played into the council’s hands perfectly. They practically cum in their pants at the thought of having a crime estate. Crime sends the value of the area through the floor, which means property investors become interested. So, the council let the crime continue until the price is low enough to turn a profit. Property investors buy the land up from under your feet and before you know it, your council estate is knocked down and you’re moving a sofa into your lovely new apartment in… Dagenham. Most cockneys live outside London now, fun fact.

 

The property investors build new, luxurious and coincidently fucking expensive flats right where you used to watch Countdown. Of those flats, 10% are made available as council housing. The crime rate drops, property price booms and a few millionaires just got that bit richer, and that’s just YOUR estate, they’re doing this all over the shop. They “Reform” the area. Now, with the infiltrators pricing out the established community, and the reformers absolutely obliterating it, East London is now “safe” enough for hipsters and gentry. Look at Brick Lane, JUST LOOK AT IT! I only go there for the biegels now. Hipster hell.

 

Where I live, a council estate maisonette (which is posh for “two floors”), we have complained 17 times about our plumbing, as in sewer water comes up into our bath. In that time, the building across from me, a “Reformed” building made by private property investors, just had its stairway rebricked for the 5th time for decorational purposes. To make it look better.

 

It is this attitude that I believe aided the fire at Grenfell.

 

When the surrounding area has been gentrified there is no incentive to keep an existing building in good shape. They would rather knock a building down than keep it going if it doesn’t appeal to the gentry, which it didn’t. This fire was unfortunate, but the cladding wasn’t fireproof, the “renovations” were made by the lowest bidder. A £10 million budget, and how much of that went to wages for the labourers, then the salaries of the managers, then the middle men, the serveyers, not to forget the peripheral companies like skip hire, crane hire etc.? That would’ve eaten away at the budget. How much was actually spent on high quality materials? No wonder it went up in flames.

 

"Apparently this place used to be a swimming pool."
Actual footage of me fucking up a hipster brunch. Proud moment.

 

Obviously, now the gentry are the hipsters who can afford the inflated rents, and the posh folk who own the houses, they are the problem. I just hope the plastic cockneys who sold out our heritage to the highest bidder can live with themselves in their Penge drums, fingering their overfed wives while watching Saturday Night Takeaway. We don’t have the money to make our own renovations, so we rely on the state to source the safest renovation. Hence the previous title “Too poor to live in safety”. We are too poor to afford state of the art renovations to our rented properties, that we couldn’t make if we wanted to, because it is technically criminal damage without prior permission. We couldn’t even buy our housing if we wanted to now. My house was worth £55,000 in the 80’s, to buy now would be £560,000.

 

The gentry and the hipsters have ruined East London. They ruined council estates and have a huge part to play in Grenfell. The cladding, that same cladding has been used all over East London, was put up because Grenfell was an “eyesore” to the surrounding prosperous residents who find poor people an inconvenience. The need for council housing wouldn’t be so high if the same prosperous residents paid their employees a fair wage, and if councils didn’t keep selling our land to the lowest bidder. Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone both sold us a dream, telling us that they would be injecting money into deprived areas, had I known that would mean injecting rich people and ejecting us, I’d have told him where he could stick his money.

 

Not just blazing buildings like Grenfell but poor upkeep in general is a direct result of Gentrification. Putting money ahead of people. Not caring enough to maintain the building, or to put a sprinkler system in it. Nor paying the extra £5000 to fireproof the building. This is commonplace, no one wants to maintain a council estate when someone will come over, knock it down, build expensive flats that make the area look nice but have no one from the area actually in them. Failure to maintain a building will result in more tragedies like Grenfell, maybe not to that extreme, but why not? It’s already happened once.

 

Grenfell is just a symptom of a failing system.

My final piece for my Fine Art Course… The Ramblings of a Madman.

My final piece for my Fine Art Course… The Ramblings of a Madman.

The Ramblings of a Madman

 

This course, as enlightening as it has been, has been the source of despair, ill-health and dysfunctionality. I have reached depths I never thought I could sink to, nor thought I could embody. Seeing as this show is the culmination of 3 years work, or in my case 4 years, I don’t think I could adequately put into image what has happened to me, so I felt a statement would suffice. I nearly left university entirely twice, after realising I’m not a “conventional artist” who tries to push the boundaries by doing what has already been done in a slightly different way. Kind of like what Union J was to One Direction, or Art Garfunkel to Simon. I decided to embody what it was to be a copycat artist, or a “reproduction artist”, which is just a nice way of saying I had no original ideas because I was born the wrong side of 1980. I feel like if there’s a god, he gave me the gift of drawing 20 years late as some kind of sick joke. Either way, I persevered.

 

I grew up around kids who thought they were the next biggest rapper, yet couldn’t grasp the basic English language. I wasn’t asking for champagne, but at least to know the difference between “Your, You’re and Yaw”, “There, Their, and They’re” would be a decent start. From the beginning, my competition were a bunch of hypocrites and cretins so I never had to try that hard at school to shine. This led to me falling in with the wrong crowd, which was the intellectual equivalent of a giraffe sinking in quicksand. I knew these people were not my type of people. I didn’t sell drugs, I didn’t, nor would I stab someone out of some stupid affiliation to a postcode, that I could easily get kicked out of if my mother did something as simple as miss 2 month’s rent. I needed to get out, however at school, I had bigger problems. I had a fight with someone who pulled my oversized stud out, which looked fucking stupid anyway. Who was I trying to look like, fucking LUDACRIS?! I digress… This fella just tried to yank a cube of Cubic Zirconia out of my ear, so I did what any self-respecting 15-year-old would do, I headbutted him in the nose. It blew up like a hepatitis firework. His older brother was a very naughty fella who I heard drove around with a machete on the back seat, so I stayed in my house and became a recluse for the next 4 years. However, me falling in with wrong crowd meant I did whatever to please people.

 

What does all that have to do with my 3 years at Herts, I hear you think? Good fucking question, and you’d be right for thinking that. To the untrained eye, that was all waffle, and to a degree it was. It was certainly self-deprecation. I like to poke fun at myself before other people do. And failing a Fine Art course, to the uninitiated is grounds for a ribbing… All the engineering lot think we sit around doing potato paintings, or think of it as a retirement home arts and crafts circle, where we sit around and knit blankets while discussing who shagged who on Eastenders. But I like to tell them I draw comics, and naturally I get a pat on the back. I could see the slight jealousy in their eyes, not as much I have for their future salaries compared to mine when I realised that a Fine Art degree basically qualifies you to squirt the sauce on Big Macs, but at least I’d be providing my customers with satisfaction as they swallow something that brings them closer to a heart attack with each bite. Again, I digress, I have an inert need to impress, like a cancer it swallows me whole until I find myself on a night out, wearing t-shirt 3 sizes too small and skinny jeans wondering where it all went wrong.

 

This need to impress became a running theme. My Laptop broke down on me in 2nd year, a normal person would buy a similar or better product at a similar price, but nooooooo… I go and buy a £1000 computer because it had Beats speakers built-in, like a total weapon. The irony is the £350 laptop I’m writing this on now is more powerful than the overpriced piece of shite I had before. The only silver lining was that I could play all my games on low resolution, like something out of Nintendo 64, but the bass was awesome. The Beats sign lit up so even in the darkness of night, I could see how much of a tool I was. Naturally, my work shared a similar theme, I decided to do work on where I come from, latching on to the Kray twins like I was their long-lost nephew who wanted to take back Bethnal Green one hipster at a time. I didn’t do it because I like the Krays, in fact I hate what they did for East London (which I’ll explain in the next paragraph), I did it so people thought “Ooooh, he’s from East London! What a legend, bet he’s seen some shit”. However, the truth was, between racking my brain for ideas in the daytime and porking my ungrateful girlfriend at night, I was lost. My need to impress people was destroying my life, I still do it. Deep down I think I’m doing what I want, but I know if I was doing what I wanted, I’d be fishing off the coast of Cuba on a yacht, firing machine guns into the distance with Dan Bilzarian, but I’m not. I’m doing what I love, and what I love is pleasing people.

 

I realised early on that university wasn’t for people like me. Being from East London, we have a stereotype of people who live outside the M25 as being carrot crunching cousin fuckers, who milk cows all day so I can buy four pints from Asda for a £1. I know this stereotype isn’t true, so I don’t hold people to it. From the outside in, people from outside London seem to think we’re all violent thieves, who are all related to the Kray twins (see, I told you I was coming to it) and that our education extends to key stage 2 Chip, Filp and Kipper. However, it seems that stereotype stuck. I couldn’t ask for the time without someone jumping 8 foot in the air, and throwing their belongings at me in an attempt to avoid this famous kicking I was supposed to inflict upon them. Everybody thought I had the IQ of a potato, and when I turned up to parties I was greeted by the sound of 6 locks turning in unison; regardless of there being 20 people there before me, suddenly I was in the frame for cheese theft. I found myself becoming the outcast, not because I deserved it, but rather because they had their assumptions, presumed I was a braindead moron and shunned me as a university pariah. Even on my own course, when someone was up to some skulduggery, suddenly I was Captain Flint and had a treasure trove of stolen Oil paints, professional pencils and canvas material.

 

I found it hard to fit in, although I found one good friend, Buwa Tetsola. We used to drink all the time, try and fail to pull birds. We later fell out, the one person I had an actual friendship with there and I fucked him off, over £89. Typical Stephen C. Mills right there. I seem to find myself in a hole, and instead of climbing out and moving on, I just find a bigger shovel. I found that I wasn’t the only Londoner to find myself in this predicament of being left out. I saw that the same white girls who would run all the way to Starbucks if a black Londoner asked them the time there, were all over them in the club because they heard that black men have longer appendages. Nothing racist on my part because bro, do your thing. Honestly, you get 12” in those guts. I’m just pointing out the part time racism that occurs in university. I’m just saying I’m not a fan of shoddy work, go hard or go home. Don’t be racist in the kitchen and pro black in the bedroom. Pick a side. I’ve heard what they said, white people know who the racists are.

 

I found that the easiest way for me to not be accused of anything was to stay indoors and work silently, around the quiet surroundings of the gentle buzz of my overpriced computer, and the mould making its way up the wall. My Ex and I spent a lot of time having unprotected sex with seemingly no consequences for around a year. I assumed all my sperm had a stroke in around 2011 and found themselves hobbling towards an egg with no discernible way to impregnate it. One fateful day, one of my sperms decided to don the cape, put its underwear on the outside of its tights and flew to rescue this egg from its lonely fate. Impregnated the shit out of it and turned the Clearblue test positive. We decided it was too early to have kids, I was half way through Far Cry 3 and could barely afford food; I was living on toast sandwiches and was fast running out of bread, she had a penchant for bulk buying low cost fashion. We were absolutely out of our league on this one. We decided to abort it, this was one of the most soul-destroying experiences of my life. I joke about it otherwise I’d cry. I was broke. Nothing makes you feel like less of a man than knowing you can’t look after what you put out. I feel that it was the right decision, I didn’t want my kid on benefits.

 

The months that followed were a slow incline to happiness. Then a sharp drop. 2016 was the single worst year of my life. I didn’t mention before that my father left…

 

**BACKSTORY ALERT**

 

When I was 4 years old my father must have thought “my work here is done” left us to our own devices, went forth and procreated like the good lord asked. All out of wedlock mind, the only time my old man went near a church was to rob it. Honestly, he was the world’s worst thief. He worked as a council painter and decorator. When he was given the keys to the house, he would go back at night, rob it blind then give the keys back. When the occupants realised they’d been robbed with no signs of forced entry, the only person who had a set of keys was David P. Mills, master thief and full time Womble. My mother knew the officers by first name. By the time I was 5, he was gone.

 

**BACK TO THE STORY**

 

… When my Father left, my mum’s father took over. My grandad is my father figure. He did everything a dad would do. In February 2016, he had a seizure and died in my arms for around 6 minutes. He came back just as the paramedic was about to jab him with a defibrillator. My world fell apart. I needed a kind smile, that’s when my girlfriend decided to split with me. When you fall through hell, you never know what level you’re on. When you think you’re at the bottom, there’s always a level lower, ready to take you in with open arms. Grandad’s hell was worse, going from being an active-ish person to having me changing his clothes was a severe comedown. The only silver lining for me was meeting a woman who really appreciated me. She stuck by me through thick and thin. Supporting me through the remainder of 2016 into 2017. Even through me getting beaten up in South London for wearing a West Ham shirt. Might have been asking for it really.

 

I started university this year and was immediately kicked out of my house for a month. My computer was smashed, containing the only copy of Photoshop I had. My work ground to a halt. I moved on to what I know best, making the best of shitty situations. I worked as a security guard the whole time. I figured that I couldn’t do any work, I also realised I had worked myself into £5000 worth of debt so working would be my best option. I’ve taken to writing a novel because I challenge anyone to have more source material than I’ve had in the last 4 years.

 

If this course is made to challenge students then it failed. I have been tested by everything except this course. I’ve battled with ex-girlfriends, family, health, finance and employment. This may not be the most interesting thing you see today. But, you will remember it. In that, I have served my purpose as an artist. This may be the most original thing I have produced.

 

It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, but I lived my life, not draw it.

 

I worked my arse off to get somewhere. I might have been running on the spot, but I did it.

 

How do I visualise all of that into a final piece? You couldn’t.

 

All you can think of is that giraffe sinking into quicksand, right?

 

I hope this note finds you well.

 

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