Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Life on the estate (with Covid-19)

Few secure tenants remain on Marlowe Road Estate, writes columnist Michelle Edwards – as she deals with the pervasive effects of long Covid Two months ago, [...]

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New private flats on Marlowe Road Estate, near Northwood Tower (Credit: Penny Dampier)
By Waltham Forest Echo 27 April 2021

Few secure tenants remain on Marlowe Road Estate, writes columnist Michelle Edwards – as she deals with the pervasive effects of long Covid

Two months ago, I tested positive for Covid-19. The trajectory to diagnosis took me by surprise.

I’d planned a weekend with my boyfriend to celebrate his 50th birthday. On his actual birthday, he arrived with what he thought was a cold, having slept with the window open the night before.

After dinner and a large chunk of my mummy’s rum cake, he flaked out. The next day, he was unrecognisable. Breathless. Unstable on his feet. Crying out in pain. Remarking that his skin felt like it was on fire. I hit Google and diagnosed a fever. Back to bed he went with a couple of paracetamol. He worsened.

But in the absence of sick pay, he hauled his carcass out of bed to work on the Monday morning. Later, he got a call from his supervisor.

“How are you?” she asked. “Okay,” he lied. “Have you been wearing a mask?” she said. “Of course,” he replied. “Someone you did a handover with tested positive with Covid-19,” she blurted out. Before you ask, I don’t know why she didn’t just get to the bloody point either.

My boyfriend is a London bus driver with underlying medical conditions: asthma and post prostate cancer symptoms. And, according to a Transport for London (TfL) bus safety report published last year, more likely to drop dead from the virus as a Black man.

With no sense of urgency or direction from management, he sought out a test centre after his shift. He tested positive and was off work for a month. I had hope. I didn’t snog him and didn’t have any symptoms. I’d be fine.

The NHS said otherwise. Headaches and chronic fatigue robbed me of all normality. So much for the year of hypervigilance on our part.

Prior to contracting Covid-19, I’d been working on a few stories for this column: news of a commission to work with residents of Northwood Tower and Stocksfield Road and Marlowe Road housing estates to create a song and music video, partly funded by Waltham Forest Council. And reporting details gleaned from my Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests to the council.

I scrapped the lot after a conversation with a Met Police inspector. Maintaining my wellbeing while self-isolating was hard enough without the add-on of neighbouring anti-social behaviour. Concerned about being ignored, I fired off an email to Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick prompting all sorts of hurried activity, including a few phone calls between this inspector and I. Without bias, she executed an action plan involving housing officers and the regeneration team, despite my misgivings.

But get this – the inspector then had a meeting with the senior regeneration officer who has previously misled residents on the estate. The inspector then told me that I was being booted out in November 2021.

I’d already twigged that the council were up to something after the sudden departure of non-secure tenancies at the end of last year. Well, there you have it. A new low. A copper briefing me about my own uncertain housing future. Pretty damn disgusting.

It was no coincidence that 15 days later, I woke to see a hand-delivered Notice of Seeking Possession (NOSP) in an unofficial white envelope with the type of handwriting one normally receives on a wedding invitation sticking out of my letterbox.

I suspect I crashed whatever inconsiderate moves the council had planned, likely a last-minute notice. I’m told, but have yet to verify, that one resident threw a spanner in the works after he received his NOSP. He refused to go and was taken to court and eventually dragged out by the bailiffs and police.

Allow me to share a few of the notable dealings I’ve had with the senior regeneration officer over the past nine months.

July 2020: Our on-site meeting scheduled for the next day cancelled after months of stringing me along. Cleverly, the email was sent after close of business. Thereafter, she claimed she was swamped by her workload and unable to facilitate another meeting unless it was conducted on Zoom or Teams.

September 2020: Attended a face-to-face meeting. Claimed the demolition of my block was probably going to be delayed for 18 months because of revised plans by estate developers Countryside, before performing a remarkable volte-face and denying she ever spoke those words. No sweat, I have evidence. Says the council can’t help me move away from the estate. But has helped others to do just that.

January 2021: Denied residents were required to move out this September, but conveniently omitted to provide the November date.

Do you see the games the council play? Yes, this is happening in the former ‘Borough of Culture’ that bleats on about loving all the plebs equally. So, it’s time to get out, again. 13 secure tenants are left. That shredding you hear in the background is me getting rid of years of council minutes.