Burngreave Messenger.
Issue 41 May 2004
   

Life on Verdon Street ...raises issues with khat (page 1)

Kids playing on Verdon Street.Life on Verdon Street

by Rob Smith
photography by Carl Rose

Prompted by recent complaints concerning noisy neighbours, I went out with photographer Carl, to find out what it’s like living on Verdon Street.

Nellie Maybury.Almost immediately, we met 82-year-old Nellie Maybury, who confirmed the Post Office was closing down (see Verdon Street Post Office to close) as she made her way towards the local newspaper shop. Nellie has lived here since 1992 and spoke of how beautiful the area was when everyone was looking out for each other. “But now that the older generation, born and bred here, have all gone, things have changed a lot. Now you’ve gotta keep looking over ya shoulder, love.” I was waiting for Nellie’s usual punch line, but there wasn’t one.

Further down the street we met a chap called Glenroy who, born and bred in Pitsmoor, has lived on Verdon Street for over twenty years. “Some of the new groups here do congregate but I don’t think they’re up to anything questionable. I believe the flats around here were set up to house older people, but it’s gradually become a younger generation that reside here. To be honest, I feel as safe here as anywhere else in the city. Any problems that there have been in the past I could say were attributed to class A drug dealing, but I’ve not seen much of that lately. Anyway, for me, many other areas in this city seem to have bigger problems.”

Tracey and her boyfriend, Rees, had just left their house as we approached them. A young white couple, they have lived in Verdon Street for well over five years. “We’ve had no trouble living here,” said Tracey as I then enquired if they’d had any problems or heard of the drug, khat. “No idea what that is!” replied Rees, “anyway nobody bothers us, so we don’t bother them.”

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Kids playing on Verdon Street.

Photos copyright © Carl Rose

Catching sight of Abdul, Fatima and their baby, they both said they believed Verdon Street hasn’t changed. I enquired if Abdul knew anything about khat and the problems some people are saying are created by its use. Admitting to being an occasional user of the substance, he offered to take me and Carl later that evening, to one of the houses where khat is chewed, bought and bartered.

Complaints

It is early evening before we’re out again to re-visit houses surrounding Verdon and Spital Street. We’re here to pay a call on a woman who has complained to the Messenger about the disturbance to her life caused by the activities of her Somali neighbour.

Denise Harrison has lived in Verdon Street for over 26 years and says that she sees and knows almost everything that goes on around Verdon Street and Spital Street. “All our problems began when the Somali man moved in three years ago. He’s a nice man but it’s the amount of people that visit him and their attitude. They often press our bell instead of his.”

Having been here earlier, I realised there was a real lack of parking space. This was a concern shared by Denise and many of her neighbours. “Most of them have come to visit next door, you see. Cars and delivery vans, full of boxes of the stuff they chew. It’s when they’ve finished chewing and spitting it out, that they create bags of rubbish. This is causing mice to infest this and surrounding blocks.”

Denise told us she hears the men coming and going between 2pm and 10pm and she and her partner feel they are living next to a drug den. “The Police say it’s legal as well ya know.” Denise continued, telling me she couldn’t help feeling intimidated when going out at night, because of groups hanging around outside.

I wanted to see for myself, so thanking Denise and her partner, Carl and I left and knocked on the door directly opposite. We had already seen three or four Somali men entering and others leaving as we arrived. We introduced ourselves and were invited to remove our shoes and enter the house...


next: Inside the Khat house

 

Abdul, Fatima and their baby.
     
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Index for Issue 39 March 2004.