‘A fully furnished dustbin’
Posted by J Russell
Well. The dam burst.
In a meeting. I came with a constructive head on, smiled and listened. Then I contributed to the group exercises that had been set. Then, I flipped.
I cracked under the weight of the theme: improving tower blocks as places to live. Yes, improving them not just as places to live in extremis, but acceptable places to live, for children. Now, I fully understand if you’ve been on the waiting list for a social housing place forever, you might take up the offer of a fourth floor flat, but I also believe that we should be doing better for children than that.
Heck, even some of the Conservatives think we should be doing better than that, so it’s hardly radical on my part is it? Yet, I was looked at as if I had suggested something so naive, so idealistic, so random that I should be marched round the back and put of my miserable *utopian mindset.
This, when we had been urged to ‘think out of the box’ and to indulge in ‘blue sky thinking’ in an attempt to arrive at ideas that would, rather than tinkering around the edges of seemingly intractable social issues, really kickstart some changes in the system that keep the old inequalities intact.
Well, today I discovered I am not yet too old to point out the Emperor’s New Clothes, even if I am greeted with both derision and affront. And, I am going to keep doing it, until something does actually change. All of which, led me to the ‘fully furnished dustbin’ line, which is from John Cooper Clarke’s poem Beasley Street, a line that I think describes tower blocks and some people’s attitudes to the people who live in them perfectly. Although the poem was set in a Salford terraced street during the Thatcher years, I recognise a lot of what goes on today, and it’s down the road. In fact swap ‘Keith Joseph’ for ‘Michael Gove’ and ‘Alsatian dogs’ for ‘Staffies’ and it could have been written yesterday.
We need root and branch reform of political thinking in this country to address the systematically entrenched issues of inequality, and no amount of well-meaning interventions will change that. If we don’t quickly adopt a true preventative philosophy, and yes that should involve tearing down tower blocks, the worlds of Beasley Street will still resonate with my children when they are my age. Or something even worse.
*What would you do? I was pressed on the local housing issue. Well, I said, I don’t know off the top of my head, but that’s not a reason not to start the conversation. And then I came home and found out that my town has the second highest rate of empty properties (2600) in the county and 1200 people on the social housing waiting list.
Sometimes, things are only as complicated as bureaucrats want to make them. Go figure.