I was born in the front bedroom of the two bedroom house my grandparents rented from the council. It was February 1965, The Kinks at number one for homes with record players and without teenage mothers. A year later, my brother was born in the same room.
The front bedroom was for being born in, the back bedroom was for dying in. At any rate, the back bedroom was the room in which, three decades later, my grandfather’s cancer killed him.
St Luke’s Terrace in Cobholm was a poor place all my grandparents’ lives. It was a poverty that pools coupons crossed off, a poverty unanswered in the weekly knock of insurance collectors, clean and hard and smelling of coal tar soap.
It wintered as grey fog without and grey smoke within, cigarettes and chimneys back to back, lines of black mould on steel window frames and the syrupy vapour of the maltings. It was a poverty of spirit without companionship, except the radio. Too poor for pubs or clubs, too proud for church or chapel congregations.
My grandparents, like my father, are dead now. What has half a century of progress done for this place and the people that are like them — now living? No more coal fires, no more maltings, PVC window frames. Half a century of progress…
Here are the words of the ACORN survey:
This category contains the most deprived areas of large and small towns and cities across the UK. Household incomes are low, nearly always below the national average. The level of people having difficulties with debt or having been refused credit approaches double the national average. The numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and other benefits is well above the national average. Levels of qualifications are low and those in work are likely to be employed in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations.
The housing is a mix of low rise estates, with terraced and semi-detached houses, and purpose built flats, including high rise blocks. Properties tend to be small and there may be overcrowding. Over half of the housing is rented from the local council or a housing association. There is some private renting. The relatively small proportion of the housing is owner occupied is generally of low value. Where values are influenced by higher urban property prices these are still lower value relative to the location.
There are a large number of single adult households, including many single pensioners, lone parents, separated and divorced people. There are higher levels of health problems in some areas.
These are the people who are finding life the hardest and experiencing the most difficult social and financial conditions.
These are the people…