Surprised this week to get a leaftlet through the door which informs me that I live somewhere called ‘Stratford Village’, which somewhat disappoints me as I had prided myself on living in a capital city, with all the excitements and dangers that that implies. But no, a villager I am, which is puzzling, as I’m barely acquainted with any of my fellow villagers and I am only able to get to work with the aid of a vast metropolitan transport network. This seems to be another desperate attempt to ‘brand’ or graft some identity onto a particularly nondescript part of London; the idea of an urban ‘village’ is an estate agent’s ploy, nothing more. Any remnants of community that do exist in this area will be entirely wiped out by the monstruous monolith of a shopping centre that (the council) likes to pretend has got something to do with the Olympics (it hasn’t, except for the fact that it’s part of the same garguntuan land grab) and which will fundamentally transform the geography of London in ways that the council clearly have not considered and about which they clearly do not care as long as it fulfils their quota of 5,000 more crappy retail jobs before 2012. The other Elephant & Castle-style shopping centre that we are all funnelled through every morning and evening, built over the of the old market, has not exactly done wonders for the social fabric of the area. ‘World-class’ sporting and shopping facilities come at a cost: they are going to make things, worse, not better for the people who actually live here. Developers, on the other hand, stand to make a fortune, especially if they can manage to conjure up some purported sense of local identity, currently absent. It’s not that we have nothing in common: we share the status of London’s unhealthiest borough (must be worth a gold medal or two). If Stratford is a ‘village’ I’m a (fried) chicken (I’m not).