Tuesday, March 31, 2009
According to this BBC story, Tower Hamlets, where I live, is the UK’s third most deprived borough. Thank you! It’s also “at the heart of an obesity epidemic.” (Funny how the estate agent glossed over these details. I guess she figured no one would respond to an ad for a TWO BEDROOM FLAT IN ROLY-POLY GHETTO HELL—unless the prospective tenant was a “chubby chaser” who liked his ladies down-and-out, like yours truly.)
After surviving cholera, Jack the Ripper and the Blitz, the biggest threat facing London’s east end today is . . . delicious greasy food. And no wonder. There are about fifty-thousand fried chicken/kebab shops within a one mile radius of my home. Step outside and you’ll notice the air on my street smells like bacon (I saw a man take a deep breath the other day and gain fifteen pounds). Life expectancy is so low here that 6-year-old kids wear ragged “Old Fart” t-shirts and any 14-year-old worth his salt is in the final stages of dementia.
Seems pretty grim, doesn’t it? Not if you use a little bit of imagination. I like to think of my neighbours as low-income Oompa-Loompas, like from the film Charlie’s Chocolate Services. The only difference is, instead of being funny little orange guys with green hair that sing silly songs as they make sweets, my neighbours are dejected boys that pelt my window with bottles and stones and insult me in a language that sounds nothing like Loompa. I haven’t won their chubby hearts yet, but when I do, I’m going to tell my tormentors all about Roald Dahl. If he can’t set them straight, I don’t know which children’s author can.
Even when they’re not outside my window, my neighbours are always trying to get me. Walking home at night recently, I nearly passed away when I slipped on a pile of barely visible, super greasy french fries scattered under an archway. How did they get there? A large boy (considering me “prize game”) obviously planted them there, hoping I would fall and break my neck so that he could lug me home and turn me into a very special shawarma. That is not how I want to go. Luckily, I survived and learned from my close-call. These days, I wear special shoes whenever I leave the house. To make sure I never die.
I understand why my neighbours feel so angry. This area is so poor that the local dentist operates out of a van. Once a month, a “mobile dental unit” parks at the top of my street (preceded by shouts of “Toothman! Shine yer teef for a shilling!”) It’s humiliating for everyone. I’ve yet to set foot in this so-called “Toothmobile,” but I do have a lot of questions, like: Is the dentist also the driver? Is the dentist really a dentist? Where did you get this vehicle? You don’t think you’re going to get away with this, do you?
So, what’s the answer? Unlike other epidemics, obesity can be cured with carrots and jogging. Poverty’s a little bit trickier, as the carrots and jogging are completely ineffective without some sort of education. I just hope that the British government (or Roald Dahl) finds a way to help Tower Hamlets help itself. Otherwise, the boys at my window are going to die of angina before they get a chance to murder me.