The Horror of Living in a Box

English: Chatteris Way, Lower Earley Part of t...

English: Chatteris Way, Lower Earley Part of the very large estate of private sector housing but close to its southern extremity. This is part of Earley, a town in its own right within the borough of Wokingham, but, in essence, a suburb of Reading. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the UK government is finally waking up to the fact that new homes which have been built in recent decades are too small for comfort (see the news item at BBC). This is good news, but much overdue. There are minimum standards for social housing, but not for the private sector. What does this mean?

Well, private housebuilders are in it for profit and by literally cutting corners off your house they can make more money. What you get is, you’ll be told, a house you couldn’t otherwise afford, but can you actually live in it in any sane and humane way?

There are new houses not far from where I live which have bedrooms too small to cope with anything other than a bed – forget the luxuries like bedside table and wardrobe! So bedroom 2 becomes a dressing room, except once the wardrobe is in you’d have to stand out on the landing to fasten your trousers or skirt. Some ‘single bedrooms’ are barely bigger than  the intended single bed, so where does anyone put clothes or the personal items that civilised life requires? Bathrooms have shrunk, too, as if someone forgot to pre-shink the material. Toilets are squeezed in to the narrowest of places so that the very purpose for which they are intended is impossible to all but the skeletal. In these vestibules of ablution a hot bath is the preserve of the amputee or vertically challenged.

Entrance halls once housed a cupboard for outer wear, a telephone table and, more often than not, storage under the stairs. Now you almost have to remove your overcoat before you can close the outer door.

You’ll notice that things like electric fires are becoming thin and flat, like televisions. This is to give adults the chance to be able to sit on the sofa and stretch their legs out without setting fire to their feet – but only if the sofa is jammed hard against the back wall so that anyone else in the room must negotiate the half-reclining parents like a heron picking its way through reed beds. And don’t trip, or you’ll split your head open on the opposite wall which is not quite the height of a human away.

 

 

English: Eric Pickles, British politician and ...

English: Eric Pickles, British politician and Chairman of the Conservative Party, at the Health Hotel “Health Zone” at the Manchester Central Conference Centre during the Conservative Party Conference 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Only a few days ago the not-so-svelte Eric Pickles said that new houses should have a cupboard outside in which to hide the ghastly refuse bins. Yes, I can agree with that, it is something that much of Europe has always done. But while he cringes at having to see his empties – of which I am sure there are many – some people would give their right arms to have a cupboard to put their wanted belongings in. Some would be glad to have a bin store to sleep in.

 

Living in too small a space – and it is worsened where the ceilings are so low that a fart with the windows shut can require the services of a glazier – does people’s heads in. These shoe boxes of misery are the modern day House of Horror.

There’s just no room for the candelabra, parties and ghosts.

 

 

 

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Exterminate…

I heard that Ray Cusick, the man who designed the Daleks, has passed away. It prompted me to post on Facebook that I had a Dalek play suit when I was little. Not the cheap and nasty one but the rare item from Skorpion Automotives. They were rare because Skorpion was exterminated by a fire. I managed to find a picture of the very suit I had, thanks to The Confessions of Who blogspot:

Dalek Suit

It was so cool. The gun arm had a flashing light and the eye also illuminated. The top was rigid, the skirt made of plastic which I can smell just looking at the picture. Did you have one? We could organise a reunion.

Now  back to Facebook. My re-post of the news item included this photo:

Dalek Westminster

And I commented: I had a Dalek suit when I was a kid. My friend Beejay Wells (he lives in Belgium, by the way) came up with this. Dontcha just love him?

Dalek Steve

The Land of Parentopoli

Thanks to the BBC for blasting this out in the article Nepotism alive and kicking in Italy. I won’t spoil the article for you with a summary, just go read it. Nepotism runs throughout Italian society. If you know the right person you can get a job, a discount, a table in a packed restaurant, planning permission, a mortgage (well, maybe not that since 2008!) or jump the queue for a multitude of services. That’s also how MPs get their seats through the party system. As Italy heads for the polls, think about how this reflects on a member of the EU, and read my naughty little book (available on Amazon now for just 77 pence/equivalent):

 

Italian flag

Again, the BBC article in full is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21507168

Pompeii: cadavers or casts?

With so much tripe on British television I am always filled with joy when the brilliant historian Mary Beard shows up with one of her inspiring programmes. I don’t know if there is a Mary Beard fan club but if there is please send me the link to join.

Mary Beard is professor of classics at Cambridge University (that’s in England)

Ancient Rome often inspires my writing and, as you know, I lived in Italy for many years. During my stay there I got to know Rome well – better than I know most British cities – and did my tourist guide bit with various visitors from around the world. I did, however, make it to Pompeii only once – a blistering hot September day when  my feet complained and sweat poured from me; I felt as if I had been caught in the eruption. It is a fantastic site and I recommend everyone with even a smidgen of interest in the ancient world to visit. Ruins, cadavers – or are they?

Mary Beard has recently been parting the veil, or sweeping the dust. An article in BBC Magazine carries this byline:

Is Pompeii an ancient or a modern wonder? Its ruins have been rebuilt and the bodies of the volcano’s victims are plaster casts, says classical historian Mary Beard.

You can read it all by clicking this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20407286

Now, Beard has a wicked sense of humour and she’s not afraid to bring piss and shit into her scripts either. She is a wonder of the modern age, a classic-to-be.  I say Up Pompeii, Up Mary Beard!  (yes, a shameless and blatant way to show a clip of the comic genius, Frankie Howerd):

If you haven’t seen Mary’s shows, here’s one of the best: