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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.

 

This blog contains upsetting scenes right from the start.

Well… er… actually, no it doesn’t. Unless of course you have serious problems with my writing style or the needless overuse of full stops and exclamation marks…!!!

I was watching the TV news the other day and a report from Syria was prefixed by something similar to the above and I found myself thinking why do they do that?

Surely these scenes of death and destruction are normal for a news broadcast? The scenes that followed were indeed horrific but I was left wondering if the men, women and children in this Damascus suburb, all apparently civilians and not that dissimilar to the men, women and children in my London suburb received the benefit of a similar warning before the shells slammed into their homes.

This is I think, the question many people ask. Why are we in our privileged society given warnings about images of things that are actually experienced by other people in far off places?

This is what in modern social media parlance is referred to as a “trigger warning” and mocked or condemned by many in positions of privilege. It’s designed to warn those who’ve experienced horrors in the past to images which may cause them distress in the present. It can apply as easily to those who’ve survived physical attack, rape or a serious accident as well as those who’ve survived an air raid. There are increasing numbers of “survivors” in our society and the psychological damage that has resulted from their experiences is better understood. They’re here. They’re now. Why should we accidently cause people to relive their most traumatic experiences? The trigger warnings are for them.

In my equalities-centred world I find the need to provide trigger warnings is constant. This is not just about air raids and transport accidents it’s about everyday things that happen to everyday people. They happen in the next street and the car park over the road. The huge number of women in this country who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted; the trans people who’ve been brutally attacked for simply existing; the disabled people who are abused and spat at day-in-day-out for being “scroungers” and with no means or confidence for self-defence; the ex-soldiers who are distressed by every loud noise; the people of colour who continue to suffer racist attacks in their own country… for these people, though they may hide it well, the emotional trauma is ever present and ready to leap out with the slightest nudge. Have you ever experienced a friend turn into a quivering tearful wreck at some event that barely registered with you? I have. What huge cost for something so small and trivial?

So yes – though it may seem silly to many of us such warnings are necessary. Think about your content and keep applying them. For most people it’s a minor issue but for others it will save a lot of pain.

 

A post on Twitter by one of the Trowelblazers team re-ignited my interest in a pet theory of mine which I’ve been mulling on and off since my aborted Maritime Geography undergrad course many years ago.

Now that modern media gives me the opportunity I might as well float it for anyone with an even vaguely enquiring mind.

Firstly my hypotheses have probably been tested ad-infinitum in academic publications that I’ve never had the opportunity to read, or even more likely dismissed as hogwash by people more knowledgeable than I. I will further add that I’m just a bored geographer whose glittering career in this area was largely thwarted by other activities.

Anyway, here’s the question: What exactly is at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea? Well… a great many ships obviously, but what else?

Being a bit churchy back then – something long since grown out of – I found myself contemplating the books of Genesis and Exodus and found stories such as the Great Flood and the Red Sea Crossing quite interesting. Looking at them in the light of what we were beginning to understand about climate change (this was the early nineties) I wondered whether it would be possible to explain some of these miracles through sea level change.

However the Bible is just one set of stories. Legend is littered with stories of great floods such as the Deucalion of Greek legend and Atlantis; together with numerous others originating in a variety of cultures.

So what if we assume these floods occurred? I am a great believer that if you have a number of unconnected sources, however unproven, telling you much the same thing then there is probably at least the seed of some truth in them.

My theory goes like this: Although most of the Mediterranean is oceanic it is shallower than both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It also covers large areas of continental shelf especially in the Adriatic but generally around the coastal areas and islands as you’d expect. What if during the last glaciation much of that was dry land; let’s be extravagant and say down to the -500m contour with a freshwater sea at its centre. That’s a lot of land. What if it was quite fertile and well drained with a reasonably temperate climate nicely suited to human habitation? Imagine the early civilisations which might develop in this land of plenty.

But there’s a snag. The ice sheets are melting and the neighbouring oceans beyond Gibraltar and the Red Sea are getting higher until they rise over the barriers at either end, and start to spill over into the Mediterranean Sea. This would lead to the gradual inundation of settlements and farm land; people would be forced back to higher ground. Gradually.

So what if the process wasn’t gradual? What if the Strait of Gibraltar wasn’t a strait at all back then but a natural dam? What if that dam suddenly and catastrophically ruptured under the weight of water behind it? There would be potential for a rapid flood event which wiped out civilisations. Atlantis would probably be one of the first to be destroyed before the waters reached biblical territory further east. How long would it take? Weeks? Days? Hours? Probably not enough time for people to escape from most of those civilisations.

We could imagine that the bulk of civilisation was wiped out permanently in a very short timeframe. A few stragglers with easy access to high ground (or arcs) might escape to tell the story, but their state of development would be set back greatly by the loss of their national infrastructures. Indeed most of them would be among the least affluent and developed of their epoch; farming the poorest lands on the slopes of what we now know as Europe and Africa. They would tell tales of that flood and those tales would become legend.

The theory which prompted this piece suggested that people inhabited the (dry) Adriatic in order to escape from the ice sheets further north. My theory is the obverse of that; they colonised northern Europe to escape from ever rising sea levels fearing another catastrophic flood. But it is just a theory. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to test it further but maybe someone else will one day.

It would be interesting to know more about what – if anything – is down there.

Welcome to my blog site!

I’ve set this up simply as a place for me to write my miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings. I’m not looking for a long writing career or a job in the media but I do spend a lot of time thinking and it seems such a waste to think for oneself alone so I might as well write it all down and share it with anyone who happens to be bored.

The title owes a little to my love of the Undertones and a lot to the time after I started female hormones when I experienced a series of increasingly bizarre dreams featuring footwear and cocoa based confectionery.