Friday, April 06, 2012

Housing and claustrophobia

I worked in Glasgow periodically in the 1980s so retain an interest. Headlines from The Scotsman arrive daily by e-mail. This story about a Russian refugee family that fell from a 15th floor is awful but it was the accompanying image that caught me.

Red Road flats are apparently notorious. A quick search describes them visually. Eight 31 storey blocks on the outskirts of Glasgow husing 4,000. The tallest social housing in Europe when built in 1971 according to one report. I was unaware of them.

When I lived in London I accompanied my not-well-to-do brother looking to buy a flat (which I would also inhabit). We looked at some awful life-sapping dives. Yes, even the private sector built revolting concrete blocks. Some that were comfortably habitable inside looked straight into the neighbour's windows and had virtually all natural light curbed as a consequence. The sense of claustrophia was crushing.

Not a 'complainer' by nature, shown into a miniscule hotel room in a Hong Kong (with a toddler in tow), with a window no less than 2 metres away from a neighbouring highrise block, but deep down the tens of levels, I discovered I could put my foot down with a result. We were moved to a room with an outlook. (Cactus will shake her head at my 'delicacy'.)

I suppose in their favour these Scottish blocks are at least well-spaced providing some daylight and view. My psyche craves physical space and light and a horizon. Personally I would rather be in flat with an unimpeded view than in a pokey terrace house with a garden the size of a postage stamp. But the flats are earmarked for demolition. What will replace them I wonder?

On reflection I don't know I am born (a colloquialism for Fred Dagg's "You don't know how lucky you are".)

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