Were I still in the business of offering career advice to young entrepreneurs, then my current advice would be that they could do a lot worse than get into the gates business. As the rich get richer and the rest of us get what we always get, the better off are getting pretty serious about their gates. Even here in northern and proud of it Liverpool.
I first noticed this gates thing while spending time out in the leafier suburbs with Sarah, looking for monkey puzzle trees. She’s running a blog about these ancient trees and the simple fact is, that though there are ‘urban monkeys’ you’re much more likely to find them where people have got bigger gardens.
Anyway, so out in leafy suburb land I couldn’t help noticing that a good number of people were locking themselves away, as illustrated.
Then yesterday me and my camera happened to be strolling along Carnatic Road, just up the hill from Sefton Park, where I found there is a festival of gating going on.
Is there another kind?
Then on the other side of the road?
Now as you’ll know if you’ve read very much of what I write, it’s long been one of my self-appointed tasks to walk down all the roads of Liverpool just to see what’s there. Someone’s got to and I’ve decided it should be me. So to be denied access, even to what looks like a fairly short and stumpy cul-de-sac, feels like an unfair restriction of my right to roam. Leaves me feeling a bit Kinder Scout and as if a mass trespass might be in order.
Just next to Calderstones Park are more roads I can’t walk along.
But enough to keep me out and stop me sleeping in that skip there. Or whatever it is they’re all worried I might do.
And just along the road? You’ve guessed it.
Now to me these gates and the poor souls who live behind them just look mildly creepy. But to the United Nation’s housing chief (who knew they had one?) they are symptoms of a deep societal malaise. Here’s what Joan Clos, a former Mayor of Barcelona, tells The Guardian:
“It is with increased preoccupation and sadness that we see how gated communities are proliferating everywhere. This is an expression of increased inequality, increased uneasiness in accepting diversity,” said Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat, the human settlements programme.
“The ideal city is not one with gated communities, security cameras, a futuristic scene from Blade Runner, dark and dramatic, with profound unhappiness … We need to at least build a city where happiness is possible and where public space is really for everybody.”
I think he’s coming on a bit strong with the Blade Runner stuff there but I do appreciate his support on public space. I mean, what if there were monkey puzzle trees along these gated streets that we couldn’t get in and photograph? It would be an infringement of our human rights as well as an attack on the scientific soundness of Sarah’s Monkey Puzzle database. That serious.
Now as for gates in general, they can be charming.
It’s just when the gates have roads behind them I feel I’m in the presence of not just a divided society, but a society where the ‘haves’ don’t care any more.
Yes, I’ve lived in the city long enough to know that the days of open front doors seem to be over. But let’s not continue with this aggressive nonsense of locking the roads up, hey?