Streets

Most of us take our address for granted. We buy or rent a property and there it is. Usually a number, a street name and a place to act as an identifier for our home so that our friends can find it and we can receive our electricity bill promptly. However an address is also a legal requirement on a property covering everything from ownership documentation to insurance and ease of locating it by the emergency services. 

Before 1765 all properties were known by name alone but in that year an act of parliament decreed that all new properties in towns and cities should be numbered to their road starting from 1 e.g.42 Shrewsbury Gardens. Generally odd numbers are on the left of the street and even numbers on the right, facing out of town. Some towns (notably London) however employ an out and back arrangement with 1 – 10 up one side then 11 – 20 returning down the other. New properties subsequently created on a street will probably employ a suffix e.g. 42B. If a house is divided into flats the suffixes will generally be applied upwards so that 42A is at a lower level than 42B; however a basement may have a higher suffix such as 42C if it was converted at a later date. The ground floor will have the lowest number but whether this is 42 or 42A depends on local policy towards property sub-division. Sometimes the number 13 is missed out from a road for superstitious reasons. It may be absent altogether from new, or replaced at a later date with 11A or 12A. Where there are uneven numbers of houses on each side of the road the odd or even numbered side will just continue e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10. 

Once a property has had a number it must always officially have a number, though it’s possible a number may change in exceptional circumstances. It is generally accepted for a householder to apply a name of their choice on an unofficial basis providing the number remains on official documentation; but again local policy may vary. If several small buildings are removed and replaced with a larger one a series number may appear such as 271-275 as frequently seen on city centre office blocks. 

If your property is given a name from new these days, odds are it’s a block of flats. Blocks are generally given names on new developments, but also on established streets where there isn’t sufficient space in the existing number series for all the flats, however in this case it will also have a property number. So if a large house such as 67 Manchester Road is pulled down and replaced by a block of flats, the new block will be called something like Priory Court, 67 Manchester Road and its individual units in series thus: 5 Priory Court, 67 Manchester Road. It’s unlikely that the word “Flat” will be in the official address so it is just “5” rather than “Flat 5”. However if the block does not have a name which is rare, but does happen, then the word “Flat” is used e.g. Flat 5, 67 Manchester Road. When a new block of flats is built on a major estate development it is less likely to have a street number. The address will be as flat then block then street e.g.84 Vulcan House, Lockwood Way; alternatively the flats may just be numbered to the street without reference to the block at all but this only happens in the case of fairly small blocks.  

The only other occasions a new property is given just a name is when it is being built or converted on a street with no history of numbering; usually in a small village or on an old industrial estate. 

Historic street naming can be problematic. Modern data management demands consistency and for that reason punctuation marks, such as apostrophes for example, are no longer widely used and tend to be removed from official documentation, frequently incurring the wrath of a grammatically correct resident. They were however used in the past and this sometimes creates problems when searching for an address in a database; not least because if the field isn’t configured correctly it will remove everything following it. Ambiguous spellings are also an occasional problem; it is not unknown for a street name to be spelt differently at either end. 

So who thinks of street names and block names? This varies from place to place; sometimes the local councillors will choose names, other times it is down to an individual council officer. Frequently the developer will request a name of their choice or it may be opened up to local consultation as often happens on major new social housing developments. In all cases the council officer responsible will have to consult various bodies; notably the emergency services, who may veto a chosen name if they deem it unclear or liable to cause confusion.  

Usually in the UK, the names of living people are not used unless they are royalty. This is to avoid honouring somebody who is later disgraced, and to avoid controversy. Beyond that there may be a specified theme such as trees: Oak; Ash; Hazel etc. If it is an individual road or block that needs a name then local history will invariably be consulted to acknowledge a former factory or historic personality. If an estate is built on a disused airfield, its blocks or roads may be named after aircraft types; a development on a paddock may choose horse breeds. Look out for streets called The Meadows or Orchard Way for a clue as to what was there before; or The Beechings (after Dr Beeching) which will usually be built on former railway land.  

Writing this I can think of an exception to every rule I have given but for the most part these rules are followed making our streets and towns easier to navigate however sometimes addresses that look official aren’t actually legally recognised. If nobody can ever find you on their “system” then it might be worth checking with your local authority street naming and numbering officer to make sure everything is in order. It usually costs a few pounds to register an address but it’ll save you a lot of bother at a later date if you need a quick sale or to make an insurance claim.

 

 

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When I was young there were old people; lots of them. My grandparents generation were a funny lot; they’d been through a couple of world wars and a great depression; they dressed in tweed and plus fours, wore hats and pearls, and generally stuck within rigid gender boundaries. Barring a few eccentricities being old was clearly defined and meant something much more than the number of years they’d been on planet earth.

Though I loved the older members of my own family, and knew plenty of their friends too, as a teenager and beyond it struck me that they really were from another world. They had difficulty empathising with my teenage angst and the rights of passage through which I passed. They always asked remarkably strange questions about my way of life and made observations which frequently left me cringing. Their idea of “looks nice on you” and mine were diametrically opposed. They spoke about “courting” and “walking out” and assumed that every boy or girl you brought home would signal wedding bells.

What becomes apparent as I look through my family history is that life before the Second World War was very different. You were a child, then you were an adult. You got a job, got married and had children. In that order. Those were the rights of passage that my grandparents knew. Life was all very formal. They didn’t have teenage years of pop music, getting pi**ed in friends back gardens, going to gigs, teenage sects, university, years out, flat shares, cohabitation, s**** experimentation, cr*p tv and all the shenanigans that fills the lives of fifteen to thirty year olds these days. They just didn’t share that and it was all too obvious.

However our parents did and as I watch their generation, now grandparents themselves, I don’t see them making the same basic errors; they’re much more in tune with their grandchildren and the lives they lead. In many ways that is a surprise as my nieces and nephews are growing up in the world of social media the potential of which makes me look back on my own teens and shudder at the social disasters I would probably have exposed myself to. But those are just different pieces needed to play the game; in essentials the game is the same.

And though that generation are now well in their sixties and seventies those concepts are still fresh and relevant; they get where young people are coming from and if they’ve bought into tech, so much better still. Our parents could be mods or rockers; they knew about “being careful”; they screamed at pop stars and wallowed in muddy fields wearing next to nothing. When they had their clothes on they were bang on trend. The language may be different but they get it and that’s all for the good.

I can’t imagine now that the younger generations look upon their elders with the same combination of fear, awe and bewilderment that I once did. For them; old people don’t really exist; of course there are a lot of people who’ve been around much, much longer but no real old people with buttonholes and boiled sweets. I wonder if my nieces and nephews would agree with that? Maybe I should ask them… Talk to the younger generation? Grumble, humph.

Whatever happened to Generation X?

As I take a look around at those in power and the rising stars of the future be it in politics or business, on a national scale or within my own workplace, I see a yawning generational chasm occupied by just a few lonely voices where my age cohort should be out in force.

It feels like my generation has been skipped; late to the party, missed out on all the good bits. We’re absent from the table when the cakes are being handed round. Most of my school friends dropped off the conventional career ladder long ago and I’ll soon be joining them. Where did Generation X go wrong?

For those who don’t already know, Generation X are the kids who were born between the mid 60’s and mid 80’s. We’re currently in our thirties and forties. Those older than us are the Baby-Boomers and those younger are the Millenials.

About now we should have been expecting to see the bulk of power and capital passing into our hands as the Boomers retired but it hasn’t happened. To me it feels like we’ve been by-passed. True enough, politically, all three major party leaders are early X’ers and what a sorry bunch they are in the great scheme of things. I suspect that by this time next year they’ll all be gone and odds are that their replacements will come once more from the older generation, or even the younger; a safe pair of hands or a breath of fresh air.

But why did it come to this? What happened to us and why are we so disorganised and seemingly lost in the world? It all comes down to history.

Generation X grew up during the seventies and eighties. These were our most formative years when the ideas that we absorbed shaped our futures. In childhood we learn our basic lessons and are forever dominated by the things which play on our minds most and for us as a group, that was the bomb.

It may not seem such an obvious thing to those who were over ten years old in 1970; or indeed to ourselves, but we grew up in the era of ‘mutually assured destruction’. We were children safe in the knowledge that we could all be annihilated in the blink of an eye; we were too young to understand the politics, the why’s and wherefores. All we had were adults talking darkly about ‘four minute warnings’ and ‘fallout shelters’, and how if we were lucky we’d be vapourised. We rehearsed for it at primary school and dug play nuclear shelters in the garden. We dutifully read our set English texts: On the beach, Z for Zachariah, Adam’s Ark… but they didn’t prepare us for life; they prepared us for death.

The end of the world was real and imminent from my earliest consciousness, but speaking to older generations now, I know that it didn’t register with them in anything like the same way; they all watched the news of course whereas we just had the fear.

Plenty of us watched Threads though; and those that didn’t heard about it at school the next day.

And this is the problem for Generation X. Most of us didn’t expect to ever be in our thirties and forties; or at least if we did it would be in a world so far removed from that we knew that it was hardly worth preparing for. The survivors were the ones going blind up on Curbar Edge. What good would education and wealth be to us there? We might just as well get drunk.

So we played like there was no tomorrow, enjoying ourselves while we could. We never studied too hard preferring instead a life of binge drinking, drugs, cheap sex and illegal raves.

Then, twenty-five years ago the wall came down and everything changed. We found ourselves wondering what to do with our lives. We were never prepared for that and all of a sudden we were expected to adapt to a new reality. Peace.

We still lived our lives of self-gratification, quick credit and short-termism because that’s what our formative years had taught us to do. We didn’t bother with pensions and have the lowest voting turnout of any generation, ever.

Now most of us have debts up to our eyebrows; mine was the first year to get student loans (albeit modest by today’s standards). Those of us who didn’t end our lives in crack dens finished school and graduated into a ruthless boom and bust economy which sapped our spirits before we even got going.

We mortgaged ourselves up to the hilt to try and get on the housing ladder whilst still being in that dangerous mind-set that tomorrow would never come. Now here we are; tomorrow has come and there’s another long recession partly of our own making. We’re broken and shell-shocked as we lose the lives we’d gained once we belatedly realised we needed to work hard. At the same time we find ourselves as the sandwich generation having to care for both our parents and our children simultaneously. What a mess.

Meanwhile the following generation have come along with their work hard, play hard attitude and wonderful self-assurance. I don’t pretend life is easy for them at the moment but they do seem so much better prepared for it. They take life seriously and care about their future. The first of them are just entering their thirties and yet they’ve already produced social and political commentators, entrepreneurs and thinkers the like of which have rarely been seen before. Generation X are struggling to find our feet; meanwhile the Millenials have already found theirs and started walking.

I bought my flat here in 2008. I got it at just the right time; the bottom of the market. It wasn’t perfect as a flat; just one bedroom, living room, tiny kitchen and a bathroom with no window; there’s a noisy extractor fan instead. There’s no storage space and only a small communal garden between ten flats but it’s a nice area and I’ve spent money on it. I very definitely went for the ‘best street’ rather than the ‘best flat’ approach as I didn’t intend to stay long and had one eye on the resale value. I still do. I know I know!

It all went wrong when the lovely old man who lived in the flat below me, died. It wasn’t unexpected; I’d been awoken in the night often enough by the ambulances and the emergency alarm. I’d pottered down the stairs in my dressing gown to check on him and knew he was increasingly frail.

Anyway the flat lay empty for quite some time; a whole winter when I had to turn the heating up high to compensate for the cold void below. It wasn’t in good condition and the market was slow. When it sold for what in this area amounts to peanuts (a whisker less than six figures), I was glad to have someone in it at last saving my fuel bills.

The owner came and introduced himself as ‘your new neighbour’. He seemed nice I thought, and was spending what looked like an absolute fortune on the place. But then a little note appeared on the communal notice board: ‘flat to let’. Yep. He was a buy to let owner and not my neighbour at all. I was a little bemused too as to why he wanted to advertise there; I mean we all had one already! It didn’t fill me with confidence. I didn’t see the flat advertised for let anywhere else, actually advertised with a letting agency that is, just a little note in the same block. Anyway; somebody eventually moved in.

All was fine for a while. I was glad of someone below me, though I began to pick up rumblings of discontent from other residents. Sure, they’re council tenants; that’s fine. I’m not a snob. I didn’t even object to the smell of dope permeating up through the bathroom fan until it became so strong that I was getting headaches. I always had that problem with dope; I was no fun as a student. The security light stopped working too; apparently they smashed it and cars in the car park were damaged, though not mine. These stories began to percolate around.

It was officially let to one person. They were what the council refers to officially as ‘statutory obligation to house’ but there’s more than one person living there. I’m not a curtain twitcher and I’ve never counted but I’ve seen at least five different people repeatedly as I go about my business and I’ve heard a variety of voices too.

They play music loudly of course. I quite liked it at first though; trancey stuff which worked quite well through the floor and not too loud, but it did gradually become constant and all pervading. Other noise began too; one of the men clearly had a fiery temper and raised his voice with the slightest provocation; other residents were at it like bunnies. I lay awake in my bed listening to them going at it incessantly. My flat and theirs have exactly the same layout so there’s no getting away from it. I can’t imagine what it would be like sharing with four other people. Mine is cramped whenever I have one other person to stay.

Temper man gradually became more and more irritable and more and more violent too. I don’t think he’s violent towards people but he certainly is towards the furniture. I hear the floor boards being ripped up and smashed. I’ve heard blocks of concrete being dragged around; at least that’s what it sounded like, and I dread to think if any of the kitchen cupboards or furniture is still in one piece.

They had a water leak while I was away one day and a neighbour who is a builder went in and fixed it for them as it was damaging communal areas. He told stories of black mould growing up the walls and a bathroom that you just don’t want to see. The place had been done up so nicely before it was let and now it’s a bombsite.

Meanwhile the amount of sleep I’m getting is diminishing rapidly. The police have been around several times. The communal garden is out of bounds as they do drugs and drink lager there, shouting and swearing while they’re at it so I’m getting no sunshine or fresh air and to make matters worse I’m now forced to work from home two days a week. Needless to say I get very little done.

It was so slow in building up for me. Nuisance neighbours don’t arrive with a bang but the cumulative effect of months of borderline anti-social behaviour and disrupted sleep is now taking its toll. We’ve contacted the council but with the best will in the world we sound like a group of snobby middle-class owner occupiers who want to eject the lower classes. It’s not like that though. We just want some sleep. But what can the council do? If they’re obliged to house them they’ll probably stay until they burn the place down. That frightens me. It frightens me while I’m there and it frightens me while I’m not.

And as I write this, temper man is kicking off again. Shouting and screaming obscenities at the top of his voice! The door slams. The block shakes.

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

Image

These days I live and work in the suburbs about half an hour’s train ride from Central London. As a consequence I only find myself “in town” once or twice a month which gives an interval just long enough for me to observe the changes. I used to enjoy going into London but nowadays I always come away feeling like the place has died a little since last time I was there.

The problem is not, as with so many places, a lack of money; I think it’s the opposite. Too much money. Over the last few years there has been a huge influx of Russian and far-eastern capital. This has coincided with many of the Central London land-leases coming up for renewal and now so much of the city centre is seeing wonderful atmospheric little streets and neighbourhoods ripped apart and disfigured by huge glitzy and expensive developments that can only be afforded by the super-rich.

The places where I used to go after work are disappearing. These are the places where the quirky people, the writers, artists and thespians went. Indeed these are the places where the creatives and the innovators exchanged their ideas and developed new technologies; the places where every young newcomer and student would go to be part of the great London experience. They are fast disappearing to satisfy the immense appetite for development opportunities for the super-rich. Cool London is being crushed by a great golden steamroller.

And I’m sorry to say the super-rich are never cool. Ever. To be cool; to lead in fashion and industry you have to improvise and try the untried. If you can afford whatever you want, whenever you want it, you never need to do this; you follow fashion rather than shaping it. Cool is for the upcoming lower and middle classes. And these groups now find themselves locked out of London entirely by astronomical prices. London was always expensive; expensive but manageable. Now it’s becoming out of reach to all but the very richest.

I watch with sadness as the little nooks and crannies I used to know so well in Soho are trampled over by big money. Every time I go there I find another block where I sheltered from the rain or ate a late-night kebab has gone and been replaced by a new development of executive apartments. The sex workers and the gay scene seem to be beaten back at every turn; often with the assistance of the authorities. Their workplaces and venues closing down in the face of rocketing rents and “gentrification”. Other neighbourhoods are experiencing similar destruction as the groups that gave them their image are forced out by people who think you can buy that image through an address.

In my twenties London was the only place to be and I enjoyed it. I lived in hovels all over the city: Bayswater; St John’s Wood, Brixton and New Cross before moving out to the suburbs in search of more space. Back then my most fashionable peers were hanging out in Dalston and Hoxton. I went to some brilliant house parties there. It was a place they could afford; they made it trendy which then priced their successors out. Previous generations did the same with Islington and Notting Hill. Now it seems there is nowhere left to go.

But there is. Now I mix with people who have children in their late teens and twenties. Those kids still go off to university and do all the things we did and like us they want to go to the most fashionable and vibrant places. There is a new up and coming place where they all seem so keen to go and live. A new place to colonise and make fashionable. What is the name of this latest miracle neighbourhood? It’s called Manchester.

We’ve seen it before of course. Back in the early nineties Manchester was the place to be for its music scene but nobody barring a few diehard ‘Roses fans actually wanted to move there. Most of those bands came down to London as soon as they found fame. But this time it feels different. There doesn’t appear to be any discernible musical movement behind this change. It was the BBC going there that seemed to start the move; other media companies have followed taking waves of young trendies with them. As they decide to stay on and make their lives there in the sort of flats and localities they could never dream of affording in London, they will develop the culture and encourage more to follow and Manchester will boom. Why would anyone come to London when you can’t afford to live here? The city where tacky gold-plated identikit champagne bars are replacing the fabulous, dingy little music venues, comedy clubs and late-night cafés so beloved of previous generations?

I hope, as a northerner of sorts, that Manchester’s boom will spread to neighbouring cities and that transport investment happens to back it up. There is so much potential up there that has just been sneered at by southerners for too long. It would be good to see the boot on the other foot at last.

As for me? As a forty something I have a growing desire to leave London. It’s lost its buzz. It isn’t what it once was (I bet every generation says that), but now to my surprise I see my peers leaving too. They go to get better schools for their children and cheaper offices for their start-ups. Many only make it to Cambridge or Brighton but even so they have left London and moved elsewhere. Their places taken by yet more rich investors with bursting pockets on a quest for gold-plated, diamond encrusted, ostentatious naffness.

London will always be a world city but it is fast detaching itself from the nation that made it.

 

I was asked to write this piece to give a transgender perspective on the Let Toys be Toys campaign. I am a transgender woman; I was classified as male at birth and I transitioned to female in adulthood. Many transgender people will say that they realised they were different at a very early age and so for us the rigid gender policing of the toys we play with can result in lasting damage and hurt. I am no exception to this.

One of my earliest memories is as a child at playgroup at the local village hall. How old was I? Two or three maybe? I was playing with toys along with some other children in a side room off the main hall when one of the staff came in. She picked me up and took me from the toys I was playing with and put me down next to different toys on the other side of the room, so I went back to where I’d been enjoying myself. Then the same thing happened again; a pair of arms picked me up and placed me with the other toys. I wasn’t interested, so I went back again. The third time I was holding a Hamble type doll which was grabbed away from me and I was smacked or scolded, I can’t remember which, but I was upset as I was the only child who’d been treated that way. I learned my lesson and from then on would only play with a very limited range of toys. At that age I couldn’t easily differentiate between “boy” and “girl” toys for myself, so I became unadventurous and my social exclusion followed.

This was the mid-seventies. If anything I think the problem of gendered toys is now far worse, even though parental attitudes towards gender diversity are probably more liberal. In those days it wasn’t unusual to see children playing with what would now be considered “opposite gender” toys in catalogue illustrations; nor was there quite so much sickly pink on offer. Now as I shop for presents for nieces and nephews I see that the gender roles are increasingly demarcated with girls forced towards domesticity and beauty, whereas adventure and science toys are definitely for boys only. Why? Why are manufacturers and retailers excluding 50% of their potential market for every item? Where’s the business sense in that?

Being punished before I was three for wanting to play in the ”wrong” role was almost certainly behind my lack of confidence in coming out as transgender which left me in a horrible limbo. I had learned in my formative years that any expression of my femininity was naughty which prevented me from alerting my own liberal minded parents who I now know would have been accepting and supportive. It set me up for a lifetime of loneliness, lack of social bonding and being an outcast. I’m still shocked that as a child I was prevented from expressing myself in a safe and supervised environment where I was doing no harm either to myself or others.

To this day socialising still doesn’t come naturally even now that I’m confident in my own body. Our childhood years, especially younger than five, are the time at which we take on the bulk of the social conditioning which will carry us through our lives. The things that harm us then are the things which frighten us forever and the lessons we learn aren’t easily put aside, and so it was for me and thousands of other transgender people as well as anyone else whose interests and identities diverge from the perceived (or imposed) norm.

My fear now is that any kind of variance from such strictly enforced gender marketing will be social suicide for any child who is ever exposed to peer-pressure. Which young girl with the aptitude to make great scientific discoveries may be turned away from realising that potential because it’s not what society expects of her? How many more boys will grow up believing it’s unmanly to iron their own shirts and cook their own dinner? And how many more transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming kids will be forced into loneliness, despair and self-harm because they are too afraid to express their own personalities through the toys they play with?

I’m conscious that my argument might suggest that transgender people are reinforcing gender stereotypes by wanting to play only with “opposite-gender” toys but this is not the case; most of us gain our enjoyment from a variety of different pursuits. Gender is a spectrum not an either/or absolute. Many young boys have no desire to play with ultra-macho things like guns. There are plenty of women who are car enthusiasts and some of the best chefs are men. We should all have the opportunity to play with the toys which best express our personalities and shape the people we are to become. Everyone should be allowed to find their own space on the gender spectrum and maximise their future potential without having their whole life defined by a cursory glance from a midwife at birth.

heater

It’s cold. Well it’s not that cold, not outside anyway, but I am cold.

My flat uses night-store heaters and when I switched them on for the first time this autumn they tripped the power circuit out. These are big old heaters; probably as old as the flat; they just don’t feel safe anymore so I switched them off and decided to replace them. All well and good.

Now night-store heaters it seems are expensive – about £1000 for two. I was also not aware – though it’s probably fairly obvious if I think about it – that they are full of heavy heating bricks. I approached my small local electrical retailer who is excellent. The woman (always a good sign in my view) came round with a measuring tape, chose a couple of new heaters for me, and got them delivered without much fuss which is just as I like it. I found myself temporarily accommodating two very large cardboard boxes and a pile of heavy bricks on my nice wooden floor. She arranged for an electrician to come around at my convenience – so a Saturday then – to install them.

Saturday came, and so eventually did the electrician. He set to work with the aid of a cuppa and removed the first heater. He carted a stack of bricks out into the communal hallway leaving scrap metal propped up in my living room. He then fixed the new heater onto the wall but was clearly starting to have difficulty. A few moments later he said he was to ill to continue. Before leaving he assured me everything was safe but I now had one new heater fixed to the wall but unusable without bricks inside. The remains of the old one and the bricks from it distributed around my flat and outside in the hall. I felt I had little choice but to get those to the dump myself which was hard work but not insurmountable for a forty year old by herself. My nails suffered.

Now I await the return of the electrician “sometime in the next few days”. I hope he’s okay. I feel guilty about pursuing it.

So here I am. Cold. I’ve been chilly for the last two weeks but I knew I was getting the heaters fixed and it wouldn’t be long but now the weather is turning colder and I don’t know how long it will be.

My experience with electricians isn’t good. I have had another electrical job needing done for quite some time but haven’t been able to get anyone to do it. The job’s too small apparently. In years gone it’s the sort of job I might have done myself, but I am  not a qualified electrician so that is now against the rules, but changing a couple of light fittings isn’t big enough for a qualified electrician so they haven’t been done. I have ceiling lights which I’m frightened to use. The chances of me having a “big” electrical job in a very small flat are limited so now the heaters are being done the lights will be done as well once the electrician is fit to do them.

Anyway back to the cold. I took the prime minister’s advice and put on another sweater. He’s right, it does make you warmer. A bit. Though as I say it’s not really cold yet. But just being a degree or so cold is a problem. You become lethargic and don’t want to do anything. Most of the housework I intended to do this weekend didn’t get done because I just wanted to sit on the sofa huddled around my portable heater and keep warm. I didn’t do it last weekend either for the same reason so the place is getting dirty. I haven’t washed my towels or sheets because I don’t want wet linen drying when there’s no heat – I’m in an upstairs flat so I don’t have access to any other drying facilities beyond a clothes horse and a night-store heater. I daren’t open the windows when I’m cooking for fear of drafts chilling the fabric of the flat even more, so now the place smells of food and there is condensation from the steam making the window frames damp. I’m coming down with a cold.

I’m lucky I have a job. I can go to work where there is a reasonable level of warmth but what of those who don’t work? Pensioners? The disabled? As I’m finding, being cold isn’t just about being cold, it also contributes to a downward spiral of general squalor, poor health and misery. Nor is it always down to poverty or fecklessness, sometimes it can just happen by accident. Maybe that’s worth remembering next time you tell someone to wear an extra jumper.