I’ve lived in London for 25 years and never described my residential area as ‘happening.’ This maybe due to never having lived in a happening area, but I’m not even sure what an area needs to qualify as happening. However, a chap in the (cough – middle class alert) yoga locker room clearly did, as he happily announced his pleasure at having moved to a more ‘happening area’. He was declaring this to a fellow yogi (or whatever the plural of smug yogic middle class people are called), who was unable to escape due to needing to towel himself dry. Mr. Happening warmed to his theme, while wearing the least happening underpants I’ve seen since I had my own as a teenager.  He was adding that it feels far more like London when you’re away from the gentrification, and there’s less mums.

Now, I was unaware that the prevalence of motherhood was what identified an area as happening or not. But I was reminded of Donald Trump’s recent excuse for lurid obscenities as being ‘locker room talk’. I presume he wasn’t referring to socio-geographical opinions better suited to pissed up estate agents furiously incapable of departing from their habitual script of describing cramped flats as cosy, neglected courtyards as gardens, and postal codes as ‘happening’.  Presumably non-happening locations are frozen in time-continuum stasis in which nothing happens; earth worms, traffic and people imprisoned by the impossibility of moving. Actually, this does rather accurately describe Sutton and Kingston on the London Surrey borders.

I continued to mind my own business (i.e. attempting to not look like I was intending to blog about his comments) as Mr. Happening informed his companion that it was a relief to be away from all the gentrification. You know, how all those coffee shops, window boxes and Farrow & Ball pastels can be traumatic to the more urbanely cool personality. Ironically, even while wearing unhappening pants, he could not have appeared more suburban if he’d had a bricked-over driveway to hand. I was struck by those moaning about gentrification of an area generally being those actually causing it. Besides, what would the process of de-gentrification look like? Neglected houses with rotten guttering, overgrown gardens and broken windows. Mr. Happening appeared to like the neater things in life, he was at yoga after all. He looked as edgy as a melon.

A happening area implies nightly police sirens, and street drinking or loft parties, which you call the noise pollution people about because you’re in bed by 10 o’clock, or watching George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. I might be showing my age, but surely happening places are where you want to visit, not live. I was encouraged mind you, as I later walked home from my local station, when overhearing someone on the phone encouraging a visit to south London because ‘There’s an event tonight. It’ll be really good.’ It was one hell of a hard sell, suggesting that perhaps I live in a happening area after all.

Something that IS happening is the Life Assistance Agency, which is available to buy here –  and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

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