Father of 6 shot dead in London – it’s okay though, he probably deserved it

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The Rude Brick Says…

Well, it’s been several weeks (sorry about that), but something’s finally got me angry enough to write. Many thanks, Yahoo – whether it’s the news or just your slapdash approach to copyediting, you always know how to get me riled up. Although in this case it’s the reactions of some of your over-zealous readers. I’ve been warned repeatedly to ignore “the lower half of the internet” when reading articles online, and time and again I fail to heed the warning.

I suppose I should explain what’s pissed me off so much.

“Murdered Preacher Spoke Out Against Terror” screams the headline. It refers to the death of Abdul Hadi Arwani, a Muslim preacher who was found dead in his car in Wembley a few days ago. A post-mortem is underway, but initial reports have stated that he suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. Not a pleasant way to go out, that. I mean, Wembley’s a dump.

Inevitably the press is milking this for all it’s worth, as always happens when a story ticks a few Controversy boxes (in this case those boxes were “Murder”, “Syrian-born Muslim cleric” and “An-Noor Mosque”, which has a number of links to radical beliefs and terrorism). I’m not blaming them for that. In fact, the article that’s drawn a response from me focuses on the deceased as a peaceful man who spoke out against extremism and advocated freedom for all. He hasn’t even preached at An-Noor since 2011.

No, the article didn’t piss me off. The lower half of the internet did. The comments section (which I promise I’ll never read again, and even as I type that I know it to be a lie) contained some real fucking gems this time. Here are just some of my favourites:

     “…this Syrian-born preacher who is supposedly so innocent, I’d be willing to bet he was involved in something sinister ; it will come to light eventually, I’m patient.”

“Any Muslim will tell you there [sic] against Terrorism the thing is do you believe them.”

“The mussies have to speak out against everything as they fear there [sic] benefits will be stopped otherwise.”

“Muslims are all the same, they are violent, lying toe rags who need to be sorted out.”

“These Muslims will try and portray that they are a peaceful people but evidence shows that what they say is clearly different to what they do. Trust a Muslim…NEVER”

“It seems to me that he was a troublemaker and somebody decided he needed putting down!

Now he is dead I suppose his Family will be returned to where they came from?”

“Note 6 Children. Brits take note they are out breeding us by an average of 4-1 so prepare for your grandchildren to be converted to Muslims and face Sharia Laws”

I’ll stop now before Dave Gorman comes a’knockin’ for his royalties, though I wasn’t actually intending to turn the above examples into a hilarious (?) spoken word performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTZmDPhJ5NM

But back to those lovely comments. He’s a Muslim preacher so he must be evil; the Muslims are coming over here for our benefits; you can’t trust the Muslims; they’re all the same; they’re violent and at war with the West; our ideals are under threat and our country will be under Islamic law within two generations.

And that’s STILL not what angered me (well, it did, but I’ve been angry at all that before). What angered me was the number of people ready to step forward and say that this man deserved to be killed.

What the fuck do they know? Not one of them started their comment with “I knew him personally, so…”. Plenty of them judged him to be guilty – the kind of “guilty” deserving of the death penalty – just because he was Muslim. What kind of people are you? Can you all just take a step back from this circlejerk and consider what you’re saying?

Because what you’re saying is: a man was shot dead, and I approve of this because he might have said some things I disagree with.

Setting aside the fact that his death might have been nothing to do with his beliefs (I hear that some Muslims now have hobbies outside of reading the Koran and praying, amazing), how the fuck can you be cool with the idea that someone could be shot dead just for saying something? That is not how we do things in the UK these days. We have things like a police force, and rules we’ve all agreed to stick to, y’know? I don’t care if the guy was inciting terrorism, we have the police and our laws because society doesn’t function too well with free-flowing vigilantism. Just because you happen to think that someone deserves to die doesn’t mean it’s okay for someone else to go shoot them.

What if someone decides your views are too extreme to allow you to continue living? (For example, because you think it’s justifiable to shoot suspected extremists. I’d at least give you a hefty slap for that one.) I take it you’re cool with fearing for your life, yeah? Didn’t think so.

I’m not going to pick over all the other problems that rear their ugly heads in those comments. They are, of course, part of the problem. But above all else it does not sit comfortably with me that I share this island with the kind of people who can look at the murder of a stranger in their capital city, and just shrug and say, well, no doubt he deserved to die. You callous, dehumanising bastards.

PS. If any of the comments I’ve cited belong to you, please do come and say hi.

Renting in London doesn’t have to be shit

Yes, renting in London is tough and overpriced. But you don’t have to accept it.

Looking for somewhere to live in London is fucking depressing. Online searches, courtesy of Zoopla, Right Move and the like, seem to offer either overpriced shitholes or even more expensive regular places. Space is at a premium thanks to the greediness of landlords and the many perks of living in London.

Take an average from online searches for a 2-bed flat and you’re looking at a minimum of £1,000pcm (excluding bills) for a flat featuring one small double, one single that you can only fit a bed in if you don’t mind not being able to shut the door, and a kitchenette either stuck on to the living room as an afterthought or so small that you can only get half a person in there at a time. (I’m not exaggerating; these are actually descriptions of some of the flats I viewed when looking for a 2-bed with my partner. The place with the single room as above was described as a “good-sized two-bedroom apartment”. After that, we didn’t bother with anything termed “cosy”.)

Go into an estate agents and tell them you’ve got an upper rent limit of £1,000pcm and three things will happen:

  1. They’ll pull that “ooh, that’s gonna be tough” expression – that wince you normally only used to see on a plumber’s face when you asked him how much it’d cost to fix your blocked sink.
  1. They’ll tell you how rare 2-beds in that price range are, and ask you if you could manage with a 1-bed instead.
  1. When you tell them it has to be a 2-bed, they’ll keep sending you to view flats that are c.£50-100pcm over your budget, despite what you’ve said at the start, and they won’t tell you the exact price until after you’ve looked round.

You can do two things at this point:

  1. Admit defeat – it’s pricey, pricey London, after all – and struggle to cough up the extra dough month after month, sacrificing things like having fun, eating right, and being warm in winter.
A grubby little estate agent touching your money

A grubby little estate agent touching your money

What I’m about to tell you goes against the vast majority of rental experience in London. Yes, renting property in London is competitive and grossly overpriced. Yes, many landlords are greedy arseholes who know what they can get away with (and will try it on even with the stuff they can’t get away with). Yes, you aren’t just paying to live in the property, you’re paying for the perks that come with where it’s located. And it’s worse for couples. Generally speaking, you get a much better deal if you share as a group of three or more. I guess wanting to live with your partner comes under the heading of “perks” for which landlords can justify pushing up the rent.

Nevertheless, your number one policy when looking for property to rent in London must be that of non-acceptance. Do not accept that you are asking too much to find a 2-bed flat and keep it under £1,000pcm. Do not accept that your rooms will have to be poky, or unfurnished, or that to get a good deal you will have to live in a terrible area with sod-all transport links into town. There are good places out there (with good landlords) – you just have to expand your search.

Start early. If you know when you’re going to be moving, start searching a couple of months in advance. Yes, I know most places will want you to move in either immediately or with no more than a month’s notice. But starting early gets you a feel for the current market, along with contacts and a sense of what estate agents mean when they use certain phrases. It also gives you time to sign up to agents in the areas you want to live in and get an idea of which ones are fairest in terms of fees etc.

Get your name on some lists. Go visit some estate agents. Discuss what you’re after and don’t budge from your budget. If you have an upper limit, you’d be screwing yourself and your landlord to exceed it. Badger them regularly and go view some places, even if they’re available now. It’s all good practice and all good information and experience.

Talk to people. You never know which of your Facebook friends might have connections to a friendly landlord with a property due to become available around the time you’re looking to move. I know that sounds a bit far-fetched, but that’s exactly how I came to be living where I am currently. “Dealing direct” allows you more flexibility in negotiating things like monthly rent and what might be included in that – landlords are more willing to offer you a reasonable rate because they aren’t staring into the giddying maw of agency fees, which are often substantial for both parties. Also, they are dealing with “real people”, rather than renting through a middle-man to total strangers – it builds a degree of trust, which can also encourage a landlord’s generosity.

Be a bit flexible with your requirements. The place you move to doesn’t have to be a palace – you can make it what you want once you’re in. Make it your home – if it needs a bit of work (fresh paint job, for example), be prepared to roll your sleeves up. The result: you’ll get it looking the way you want it, and the landlord doesn’t have to shell out on decorators (making him or her less likely to increase your rent when review time comes around). The cheapest way to get your hands on some decent quality paint is by visiting a paint reuse project like The Paint Place, where you can buy surplus/reclaimed paint from as little as £1 per litre.

Yes, I know it's beautiful - but you'll only have to clean the damn thing...

Yes, I know it’s beautiful – but you’ll only have to clean the damn thing…

Many landlords justify charging obscene rents because they’ve just had the place done up to look really good. Well, that’s great for them, isn’t it, but it’s no business of yours if they want to put in a deluxe shower or marble tiles shipped in from bloody Rome. They should be giving the place a rudimentary smartening-up – a lick of neutral paint, replacement white goods if they’re knackered, and so forth – and ensuring that it functions as a place to live, not throwing a ton of glitter at it and then charging you extra. You’re looking for somewhere to call home, not a polished turd that you don’t dare step in.

Hoof it. Your dream pad doesn’t have to be situated right on top of a Tube or train station. So what if you have to walk for five or ten minutes to get on to the network – GPs recommend 20 minutes of walking per day to gain a whole host of health benefits (including warding off cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer). So, move somewhere a bit cheaper that requires you to walk to and from the nearest station. You’ll be healthier, and you’ll have more money. Oh, and all that free exercise means you won’t have to pay out for that gym membership. There, that’s saved you even more money per month. You’re welcome.

Look further out. Okay, no one’s going to insist you live in deepest darkest Cheshunt or [crosses self] Luton – apart from anything else, even places this far out are now costing too much thanks to their “excellent transport links” (that’ll be an overpriced journey by train into the capital every day, which would eat up any savings you’d make by renting that far out).

Empty Tube Train

Start your journey from farther out, and you too could get your pick of the seats! There’s often a view out of the window, too.

Anyway, the point is that, if you’re within walking-distance of a Tube station, even one in zone 5 or 6, you really aren’t that far away from Central. Travelling within zones 1-3 can often take far longer than it should due to the higher population density. If you’re going to lose some of your precious time on a packed train platform or a bus at a standstill, you might as well just start from further out – at least you’ll get a seat.

And it won’t necessarily be more expensive – take my old journey to work, for example. I used to live in Oakwood (zone 5 Piccadilly line) and travel to Old Street (zone 1 Northern line) every day. You can either do this by getting the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross and then changing to the Northern line (takes around an hour), or you can take the Piccadilly line to Manor House (zone 3) and get a 141, which, er, takes about an hour.

The difference is that the first journey will cost you a zones 1-5 travelcard, but you can do the second journey with a zones 3-5 travelcard, which comes with an all-zones bus pass thrown in (because, unlike the Tube network, buses don’t have travel zones). A zones 3-5 weekly travelcard is approximately half the price of a zones 1-5 weekly travelcard. Which should hopefully go some way towards mitigating the agony of having to use public transport a bit more than your financially-crippled, Central-London-dwelling colleagues.

So – I can’t give you any guarantees, of course, but the above will increase your chance of not getting royally screwed for rent in the capital. It’s a ballache, I admit, but pressing on instead of accepting what estate agents and online searches tell you is “the average” can really pan out. It can mean the difference between you paying £350pp, pcm in a three-bed sharer two minutes’ walk from a Zone 5 tube station, or £650pp in a five-bed sharer in Zone 3. Given the choice, I think I’d rather keep that extra £300 a month and spend it on getting myself out of London altogether every once in a while. But that’s just me. I’ve met people who love London so much, they move into Zone 2 and never go on holiday. This article probably isn’t for them.