Our house is being decorated at the moment and so there’s scaffolding up. Providing an unexpectedly good opportunity for an objective look at and reflect on the place I’ve lived in for longer than any other.
As part of this reflecting I’m spending a good amount of time out on the scaffolding. Idly talking with our friend Jayne while she paints the house for some of the time. But also doing bits of work that would be a lot more difficult without the scaffolding here. Cleaning out the gutters and wondering at the large chunks of other people’s masonry that have made their way down the hilly terraced common roof to our particular gutter. Checking for slipped slates and shoving them back into place (These will be dealt with by a proper roofer while the scaffold’s still up). And cleaning the windows, particularly the back ones that alleygating has put beyond the regular reach of window cleaners. In fact, getting out on top of our kitchen outrigger to do the bathroom window, I suspect it might be getting a good and thorough cleaning for the first time this century!
All of this though is about caring for our home and seeing it objectively in a way I’ve never done before the scaffolding arrived. Though I’ve been up the outside on ladders a few times I’m not comfortable enough on them to hang around like this musing and remembering.
I remember moving in. It was September 1991. I’m newly divorced and still the co-owner of another house that’s in the process of being sold. And I simply couldn’t have coped with the financial strain of that now. But back then the ‘housing market’ hadn’t exploded with money and private landlords so this place cost me a reasonably affordable £42,000 – a value it maintained for the following ten years until, well we’ll come back to that.
But contrast my position in September 1991 with that of my now grown up daughter, living just a few streets away with her family in a very similar house. One she rents expensively and has absolutely no prospect of buying any year soon, in common with most of her generation. Because there has been a disaster in our housing market.
Some of this disaster has been due to the strightforward aquisitiveness and greed of the marauding army of private landlords I’ve written about on here before. Some of it though has been the state sponsored greed visited upon the cities of the north through the despised Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI). About clearing sites and setting up space for the ‘market’ rather than for the people of our cities, and again, much written about and derided on this blog.
In fact this house I’m now sat happily outside of is just the sort of house that was picked on in large numbers for clearance through HMRI, as the theory then went that ‘people no longer want to live in houses like this in places like this.’ So whole areas of these terraces were brutally cleared in Anfield, Smithdown and Bootle. And even the Welsh Streets and Granby were condemned too. But sat up here I see no empty houses at all, just street after well-settled street that no one in their right mind would attempt to clear.
I don’t wish we had a drive to park our one car, there’s enough space out on the road for that. The 20mph road that most drivers stick to. There’s this yard out at the back for sitting in and reading and working on warm days, with a few plants in pots. And when Sarah wanted to do more gardening than she could here she went on the waiting list for one of the many nearby City Council allotments. She’s gardened happily there for nearly fifteen years now, conscious of how precious the place is and well ready to resist any talk of selling the land should that come up.
Though these streets are densely packed they’re near to several parks and my running routes from home are rich, varied and mostly off road. Also we’re very close to the middle of Liverpool. So close that I’ll as often walk into town or to Granby when I need to as get the bus.
So this is home. Nearly paid for now. Sarah moved in a couple of years after me and we’ve been very happy here in our light-filled bay-windowed house. So I mourn for all of those forced out of their similar homes by Compulsory Purchse Orders. Forced to take out mortgages for new homes they never thought they’d need. Or move into insecure private places with savage rents.
Having worked all my life in and around ‘housing’ I believe deeply and firmly that truly affordable and modest housing like this is a basic human right. And out here on the scaffold musing about this, I am as full of determination as I ever was that I will spend the rest of my life fighting, campaigning and working steadily on the restoration of that right for everyone.
Work done for the day, as I imagine, I bring my book and camera up onto the scaffolding for a quiet read and a few more photos. While I’ve been reading, though, Sarah has arrived back from her allotment and has spotted my idleness.And soon appears in the back door to pass me up a bucket.
Then as the evening rolls in, something much more acceptable than a bucket is passed up to me from the kitchen.