By Camille Douglas
May 30, 2016
It’s day four in London and I have fallen completely in love with the city. I admit that our relationship was rocky at first – I’ve found myself lost occasionally, and I can’t tell you how confused I am about the whole Tube thing. Nevertheless, things have worked out and it has so far been a pleasurable experience.
Over the weekend, I have enjoyed taking a bus tour all around most of London, and have been up and close to the London Eye, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. Coming into the city that I dreamed of visiting since I was little, I was a little shocked at just how massive and crowded the city was. I thought Dublin was huge, but London takes it to a whole other scale.
Today, the group participated in the Unseen Tours of Camden, London. The tours are led by former homeless individuals who give us the most honest answers and opinions about the history surrounding Camden. Our tour guide was Mike, and it wasn’t long into the tour until he caught all of us girls’ complete attentions. Unknowingly to me, Camden was and still is home to many famous celebrities. To name a few: Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, the Beckham family, Chris Martin, Tim Burton, Daniel Craig, Harry Styles, etc.
Additionally, the area is rich in punk rock, alternative rock, and indie history. U2 and the Artic Monkeys performed gigs at the local pubs before becoming hit performers. And it’s clear that Amy Winehouse was a favorite, having grown up in Camden and performed there for many years. I don’t think you could walk down any street in Camden without running into an art piece memorializing her.
As Mike led us around the area, intriguing us in all of his tales of running into celebrities like Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston or having a pint of beer with Robert Plant, he made us stop at Primrose Peak, the highest point of all of London. From the very top, you can see a part of the London cityscape.
At the top of Primrose Peak, looking out at the cityscape, Mike pointed out the area where the majority of England’s financial hub was located. He told us about his struggle with the 2008 global financial crisis. Like many, he faced difficulties with unemployment, finding another job, and to an unfortunate point, had to experience homelessness. It had been a long road, but thankfully, Mike is doing much better financially. He now has a flat that faces out to the beautiful Primrose park and has James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, as a neighbor. Hearing about the hardships he faced, Mike’s bitterness to the financial system is justified. He explained that while thousands of commoners like himself were laid off from their good paying jobs, the people working in the financial industry, mainly the executives, were given raises and high paying bonuses.
His frustration with the English financial system during the crisis reminded me of the 2010 documentary, Inside Job. Inside Job looks at the crisis in the views of US perspectives and Wall Street. It analyzes how the financial crisis came to be and exploits the corruption and deception of the U.S. financial service industry.
I saw the documentary twice on separate occasions, and I remember, like Mike, being both angry and frustrated with how things were mishandled and how financial leaders were not being held accountable to the degree they should have been. As the majority of the people were getting poorer, they and the other executives were swimming in loads of cash.
Though I am just going off of Mike’s thoughts, it was interesting to hear the commonality of opinions of the English and the U.S. financial systems between both of my opinion formed after seeing the documentary and Mike’s thoughts based on his own real life experiences.