It is very apparent, when you spend any time pounding the pavements with leaflets or canvas sheets, that the 1980’s Conservative dream of home ownership in “invincible suburbs” is turning a bit sour even for many of the people who bought into it and into one of them.
Flaking paint, sagging roofs, crumbling garden walls, paved over forecourts sprouting half sprayed weeds, discarded and broken furniture stacked outside the front door for now (in one case a toilet) are all signs of people with neither the income nor the capital to do serious repairs, nor even freshen the place up a bit. Thereby the home becomes a burden and a worry.
Ten years of austerity and fewer people can afford to “keep up appearances.” A row of homes like this and there’s a slum like appearance to the street. Renting from Councils with a proper maintenance department would collectivise the cost of maintenance, not to mention the essential retrofits that we need to hold back climate change.
On one estate I carefully close all the gates that had been left open. Which was almost all of them. The sign of people in a hurry, the casually swinging gates indicating precariousness and vulnerability: lives lived faster than they should be because there’s no time to take care. One swings back a bit hard and the woman comes out to complain that I have slammed her gate. As I apologise she notices the leaflet, beams and says -“Oh. Your from the Labour. Have a good day” and smiles again because the leaflet gives her hope.
When you are leafleting and a householder comes out and puts your leaflet straight into recycling while giving you a hard stare- as happened to me a couple of weeks ago -it can be a bit of a downer. When they come out and avidly read the leaflet as they walk down the street it makes you feel worthwhile.
In the flats, a letterbox with a No Junk Mail sticker is full of junk mail.
Some houses are not very welcoming. Some park cars across their forecourt in a way that makes it almost impossible to get to the front door. Some threaten with dogs. One house had a discarded mattress across the path, that looked as though it had been there for some time. Some take the opposite tack. A doormat reads “We welcome everyone with Proseco.” It is unclear whether this means that to be sure of a welcome you need to bring some, or, my assumption at the time, that everyone who turns up is welcomed with a glass. I was tempted to knock.
Seen in the downpour.
On the road between Drummond Street and Euston Road a youth is walking on the pavement so engrossed in reading his book that he is paying attention neither to where he is going nor the heavy raindrops that are turning his pages into papier mache.
Outside Paddington, sleek modern trains, all ready for Crossrail with “Elizabeth Line” painted on their side, sit in the rain waiting patiently for 2021.