Haggerston Estate

Haggerston Estate a project with Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Lasse Johansson by Paul Hallam is about the Haggerston West & Kingsland Estates in Hackney, East London, in the process of demolition and rebuilding.

Iwas born in Garden Road, Mansfield, though there was little sign of a garden. There was a rough back yard and alleyway. If I mention the tin bath, the outside lavatory, there’s the risk of a “humble origin” northern English nostalgia.

Even though I have stayed there from time to time, I have never been an official resident, never been moved “onto” or “off” the Haggerston Estate.

True, all of my letters, diaries, photographs and personal notes are in a flat there, in a large metal trunk, and in a few old cases. I have never before been separated from them for more than a month or two. The materials perhaps for an autobiography I might one day get around to writing.

Not everything on an estate belongs to its current residents. There are traces of those who briefly stayed or simply passed through. Visitors, friends, exlovers, the dead.

Occasionally I wake, thinking of one part or another of my particular trunk, and my changing relation to its contents, now that it is not with me to be looked at, not that I ever looked into it much when it was closer to hand.

I have never stayed in Haggerston long enough to write a “walk piece” or a “view from the window”; never been there long enough to catch a sense of its ordinary daylight, its everyday. Perhaps, if I try to wander the estate through the resident accounts, mostly second–hand, mostly sent to me by the photographers, sometimes with notes and comments, with responses to my questions about the estate.

Lots of kids swam in the canal, but then in the late 80s such swimming was made illegal, for health and safety.

He said there was a big tree next to the estate; that it needed four people to hug it. The tree fell in the big storm during the 1980s and crashed a newly built house, on Stonebridge Estate opposite to Haggerston.

With the surge in Chinese demand for metal in 2007/2008 the price of scrap metal skyrocketed. Soon the interest in the bricked –up flats, or rather the metal left in them, increased significantly. Since Hackney Council had used only the cheapest of bricks it was not much of an effort to break into the empty flats and collect the desired pipes and water tanks. The only slight side –effect was the flooding of neighbouring flats.

Apparently, some 300 years ago, there were tobacco processing plants here.

There used to be patrol men in vans on the estate with yellow lights on top making sure everyone was ok … hmmm?

Helios man, 1600s, lived across the canal, and all sorts of discoveries were made here in Haggerston, some famous scientists etc.

There’s another estate in Westminster, next to the Houses of Parliament, called the Dolphin Estate, which is similar to this one here, but Princess Anne has a flat there and they have regular tea parties, a posh version of this one.

Our Nan and Granddad had moved into number 10, Lowther House, about six months before us. The estate was still being built. Grandfather had gassed himself along with his little dog, Dinah. They’d come from a place where he had a donkey, pony, a goose, chickens and grew veg. to a one bedroom flat, it must have been hard to take.

We were moved because of slum clearance from a small house in Hockley Street off Morning Lane Hackney, our street, and the adjoining Woolpack and Ribstone Street. Most old neighbours were hardworking street traders but of course there were also quite a few bad eggs. The council decided to split the people up and they were put onto different estates. Our Mum loved the flat as soon as she walked in and saw the sun blasting through the bay windows.

Before we moved in, I remember all the bedding had to be fumigated (not just ours by the way, everyone’s). Mother was thrilled to have a bathroom, which had a gas geyser that had to be lit with a match. Not having experienced such a thing before, the gas was turned on before having lit the match, and whoosh a small explosion, known as a blow back. Frightened the life out of our Mum but turned out to be a regular occurrence with a lot of the tenants. We’d hear these small bangs mostly on a Sunday morning, the once a week bath time.

We knew all the neighbours, the lady who lent money out was Mrs Wilson, she lived in the top flat, she charged a small interest on what she lent.

A couple of years ago while doing a crossword I noticed that the names of the flats were all related to Samuel Richardson’s books. Maybe someone on the council was a fan?

I might have enjoyed hearing the stories, but once written down these sometimes bleak but often funny and moving memories make me uncomfortable.

The feeling that oral stories are best kept oral.

I cannot believe I started this with “I was born”. The risk of a humble origin nostalgia, I am aware of it, but cannot resist the tin bath mention.

It never felt humble. Nor did anyone in my family ever strike me as humble.

Can an estate consist of just a few roads, some old stone Victorian houses at the top of the road, looking down on the more recent redbrick terraces? Is an estate always a closed–off area, with the pleasures and restrictions perhaps of a self–contained island? They seem to be somewhere you arrive at, often with some difficulty, they are often vast and complex, with an array of entrances and exits, marked with special wood and metal boards, these are meant to help you to deal with the wealth of house and block names.

I still like to arrive, to find my way, without recourse to a mobile phone. Any difficulties finding the place are often compounded by these boards. You are a stranger, somewhat anxiously negotiating the terrain that the residents so take for granted.

Admit it, those stairwells can be scary. Garden Road was not like that, just down the road, the town centre, just around the corner the Mansfield Railway Station.

Mansfield, a plain name, was very much inland. I could and did steal leaflets from the local train station; they were in pale colours and offered daytrips to the exotic sounding seaside of Bridlington, Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe, Skegness. At the time I had no way of knowing that such grand place names would be smiled at; to others, the names merely evoked saucy postcards, candyfloss and “kiss me quick” hats. I treasured the timetables and stored and arranged them in an old lilac–painted wooden sideboard that had been relegated or rather uplifted to the attic. Until one day the massive stash was discovered and the childhood collection was quickly curtailed.

We moved to a modern house, Bonington Road on Ladybrook Estate, no scary coal cellar or dark attic, just a loft with an insulation tank. There was a garden at the front, the back and even one at the side. Though the road was steep climb from the nearest bus stop, the view over the town was worth it. A council house, but semi–detached with rough stretches to hide, play and kick around on. Ladybrook stretched for miles, a collection of unconnected streets, it felt more like a loose association of rival estates within the estate.

A third move, nearer to the pit and with an extra bedroom, was to a Coal Board estate, known as a tough one. Many miners from Newcastle and Scotland had moved down there, as their collieries were one by one shut down. Kelvin Close, Garibaldi Estate. Its rhythms were dictated by the days, “afters”, nights, the shifts of the men who worked down the mines. Something of the Quaker estate about it, in as much as it kept the workers together, in one place. It never struck me as at all odd that an estate should revolve round a single industry, though the women might have jobs outside of it, full or part–time in factories or in shops. It didn’t cross my mind that this might be socially somewhat restricting. I don’t recall ever seeing a black or an Asian face on the estate. But in Mansfield, by Titchfield Park, there were large “extended” families of “Poles” who ate a different kind of food, they played card games a lot and had a social club with erratic and equally extended opening hours. I knew that, I had a friend, Josef Poniatowski, at school. He took me home to meet his family; it seemed larger than any family could possibly be.

The “Polacks” got some teasing as did the other Catholics, but they were fortunate in being excused school “assembly”, as was the one Jewish boy. Otherwise the Polish seemed quite normal. Garibaldi’s Scots and Geordies were much more the “foreigners”, they seemed wilder, and their accents took a lot more getting used to. Anyway, soon enough everyone was, and seemed to be speaking “Mansfield”.

On Garibaldi there was little of the care or ingenuity of the Quaker concept of the workers’ estate. No hall, no centre, not even a pub. There was a row of shops that served it. Late at night it could feel quite forbidding, Mods and Rockers (“Grebos”) revved and roved around it. For a year or two, I had no idea who or what Garibaldi was, apart from a biscuit, no idea why the estate was thus named. It was just Garibaldi or “Gara”, you “lived up Gara”, the estate with a “reputation”.

There were call boxes on the corner, from which you might, should they be working, call out or even receive calls if you were prepared to wait long enough. You might walk past them sometimes and hear the phone ring; and you could answer it and hear the disappointment of someone hoping that someone else was waiting to take the arranged time call. You might even be asked to take a message to a resident just across the road.

I invariably answered if I heard the phone ringing, in search of a curious random adventure.

I could go out from Garibaldi, the estate of my adolescence to a wood, or take a bus to visit a country estate, at that time Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire “country piles” were slowly opening to an eager public; though their owners might have some parts firmly fenced off with clear “Not Open to the Public” signs. Clumber Park, Hardwick Hall and Byron’s Newstead Abbey. On another “day out”, I might go to what little was left of Sherwood Forest and even climb inside the ancient oak where Robin Hood and his “merry men” reputedly hid–out when the Sheriff of Nottingham happened to be passing. Fenced–off, protected and theme parked now.

Unlike the mock–Tudor estates that edged the road out of Mansfield to Nottingham, at least you could visit the aristocratic places at set times of the year and under certain restrictions, and thus contribute to the heating bills of the aristocracy, or help fill the coffers of the national “Trust”. The merely prosperous estates en route, though intriguing, seemed more out of reach, these were private lanes, “No Buskers and Hawkers”, “Private Property” and the plain “Keep Off” or “Keep Out” signs. So many warnings, I never really wanted to go in. Prosperous white–collar land.

Newstead Abbey was a favorite haunt; ruined cloisters, peacocks and a wishing well, a famous poet’s family home; a short bus ride to a world that seemed so far from Garibaldi. An estate of course, is also what you make your mark with, what you leave and pass on. At the time I never discovered whether there was an extant Byron still at home, perhaps concealed in some closed–off corner?

What you pass on is not of course likely to be that much in the case of most estate “dwellers”. An estate is a place you are expected to stay on in. If the state allows, you might get to own, or part–own, your allotted slice. But whether your estate’s assets after liabilities form part of an inheritance, or whether your part of the estate is simply there for your lifetime and passed on to strangers after death, both forms of estate suggest a “settlement”.

Permanence on offer, or worse, a form of responsibility; in part a responsibility towards “community”.

When we moved onto the Coal Board estate, in the early 60s, there were six of us, and the dog, Laddie. My older sisters moved out after marriage, and I, local boy made good, moved on to College. During my time there, my parents died. By the early 70s, that left just my younger brother and the dog in a largish house on an almost exclusively family estate. Laddie got ill and had to be “put down”. Kevin, who had perhaps had a few friends round to stay, was essentially left on his own. Kevin, who, like me, had not followed in his father’s footsteps, not entered the metal cage – a place few outsiders ever see except when men emerge from a mining disaster on TV – had not gone down the pit. So many ghosts on “Gara”, Kevin needed to leave, to take his place on a more neutral council list.

I was by then living in a student house, Cranham Terrace, an old terraced housing estate in an area mysteriously named “Jericho”, though there were no walls, it felt enclosed and yet near to the centre of Oxford. A short walk to my college. Jericho, like Garibaldi, might have been built for particular local workers, the work had run out and gentrification had begun. Academics, students, arty types, were moving in. I haven’t been back there for decades, I can imagine what those terraced houses”go for” now.

Hertford College had felt like another kind of estate; I had a room there in the first year, on an old staircase overlooking its Bridge of Sighs. There were sighs a–plenty in this then same sex college, some of them my own. The gate closed at midnight, but everyone knew there was always a basement window left open for us to climb back in through. The bar would almost certainly still be open, the chapel and the library were 24 hour. Another Oxford memoir, best resisted.

There was a year off though, a year “out”. Part of it spent on a strangely isolated estate between Park Hospital, Headington, and across the field, the Warneford, a psychiatric hospital associated for me then with students who had cracked up, a friend or two included. Student attempts at suicide. But I was taken on as an assistant nurse, in the children’s department, with its special concern for epilepsy, a condition that took so many and astonishing forms. I had read about Dostoevsky’s epilepsy. As a child I used to drop down in the school “assembly” or in the street, and go as rigid as a board. Anyone passing might have concluded that I was dead. Working with epileptic children and finding out more about it led me to realise that I might have been epileptic myself. It was never diagnosed as such, I had something that I would “grow out of” my Mum had said the doctor said. I did though recently learn that my neurology remains unusual, and epilepsy can always return.

There was a sort of outhouse, or rather a row of outhouses, where the parents could stay over. A strange mix it was, adults in the old hospital on one side, a nurses’ hostel in the middle, my more modern workplace was on the other. Some children had the obvious fits; other might just have a shake, a finger twitching for 24 hours a day. I saw a baby die; I helped give oxygen to another. I witnessed a lobotomy. The unit for parents to stay in was a complex place, it meant that they could be close to their children in the hospital, but it also meant that an array of doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and social workers could also keep an eye on them.

A hospital complex, a college campus, a prison complex, a religious order or an army barracks. Estates to take the mind off the solely domestic; with a greater potential for the erotic. It is not for nothing that so many films, television soaps and series, not to mention porn films, are so often set in or on them.

Colleges I still connect to, hospitals I might see more of, and I would be likely to resist any orders, military or religious. But there is always the fantasy of being a writer in residence.

Unsettled, restless, I once sent out an address change, “Paul has moved from Garden Road, to Bonington Road, to Kelvin Close, Mansfield to Hertford College, Cranham Terrace to St. Margaret’s Road, Oxford, to Harley Street, St, Mary’s Mansions, Hereford Road, Bethnal Green Road, Lynette Avenue, Thornhill Road, to Weston Rise Estate, and Hamlet’s Way …”

In London the area seemed more key, Bayswater, Bethnal Green, Soho, Peckham, West Ham, New Cross, Mile End, Islington, King’s Cross, Wimbledon, Tooting Broadway, with a few somewhat short stays in Southend and Bournemouth, even San Francisco.

The list was longer, and it went on and on.

Sometimes so close to homeless, yet seemingly unqualified for any waiting list at all, times when I would have taken almost any room anywhere. I would have given anything for the chance of my own estate flat. Almost any recognised and registered room would have done.

When not walking, it’s a window I need. The first thing I look for in every place I consider a move to, not that I have always been able to be picky, is a room with a view. Nothing too scenic or remote, I want something near to the street. The countryside holds no interest for me, at least not after a second night. I prefer trees that push through in the city, even trees that appear half–choked by it.

I looked, over and over, at the photographs of Haggerston Estate taken for this book. I was gripped and touched, but realised I had little to say, no people to look at, though so many to imagine. But many of my “imagined” residents are alive, and some will move into the “regenerated” estate, once the existing one has been demolished.

Perhaps I might “lightly fictionalise”? Base a story on the “evidence” of lives from the photographs, but also on the stories that were told to me?

It was a good send off. I didn’t expect that many to turn up. And most of them made an effort at least. Ivy was in a bit of a state. Gina was dolled up to the eyebrows. Didn’t think he would, but Mark brought Ibrahim. I lost count after the first twenty cars. Funny seeing Jamilla’s new car there, she said she’d never set foot on the estate again the day after they set fire to her old one.
A present it was, for her finally getting her Open University and it only lasted two days. From her old Dad she never thought she’d hear from again. She never found out how he knew she’d been studying. And he wasn’t made of money. She took one look at the car, went straight round to Ivy’s and asked if she wouldn’t mind opening up early. She had her hair done, packed a bag, and that was that.
And she stuck to her word, never came back for the furniture. Of course, that had gone by the next night anyway. Bastards took every last light socket, switch and bulb.
What would Ivy have made of it? Jim and Bill looked smart, amazing really, if you’d ever seen the state of their flat. I offered to give it a tidy once a week, but I could tell they were offended. What is it that Quentin Crisp said? “After the first four years, the dirt doesn’t get any worse.” So I let it rest.
But Kath had always kept it so spotless, pure Irish linen, always the best. Jamilla gave me her old computer and taught me how to use it. Never thought I’d live to see the day. Just basic, but not bad at sixty! A mixed blessing if ever there was one. I felt like I was going abroad, and I never was one for going abroad much.

I definitely should not try to write like this, I concluded. I have always been thrown by local “memories”, whether of the good old days or the bad ones, “voices” taped and transcribed. Some of the comment is of the “I can remember when it was safe to leave your door open” variety, a dubious tone of security. The idea that you are safe when you “know everyone” and your relatives surround you.

My taking a tone from them and mimicking their voices only made matters worse.

It is not just that many of the people there are still alive, some have moved, some have been re–housed; their stories are rich, but not always “tell–able”. The ways people get by at times, the nature of their relationships, the restrictions due to libel laws, and even a fear. Some people might not take so kindly to their stories being messed with.

But more than that, I think the problem was that I said I would write an estate “story”. The older I get, the less I feel like a fiction writer, though I spent so many years reading fiction, I was obsessed with fiction. Fiction seems to work for me when the writing is the starting–point, as in theatre or film, There, others take over. But fiction based on photographs already taken? I am still puzzling as to why I find this a problem, is it a problem with the “authentic” photograph? Probably not, since the photographs are so patterned.

The photographers kept, at my possibly foolish request, sending me news, feeding me stories. I found the tales riveting and troubling in equal measure.

After my Dad died when I was 11, I went on what was called at the time the “Country Holiday Fund”, I think it was run through the council and school, for ‘the poor kids’.

Me and another girl from the flats stayed on a farm at a place called Market Harborough. We had a good time. There were cows and pigs and he kept bees so we used to watch him take the honeycomb from the hives and put it in a sort of spinner, sorry can’t remember much more.

T, the guy they found dead in the flat, had lived without electricity for five years, he refused to pay the bill.

Living here so long, I saw the first live –work lofts and the general gentrification of the area. I remember the burnt out cars that were dumped here so frequently and how they suddenly were used as a way to resist gentrification, New Labour toffs moving into what was called a working class area. Why, when this place is about to go, do I feel the urge to hold onto something, to see for the first time in 13 years that there is a hairdressers on the estate called “Helen’s”.

No one wanted her life –long collection of mismatching but most delicate drinking glasses, so sad. The precarious life? The meaninglessness of it all?

Not sure if we told you about the work –house, full of porn, we came across a guy in one of the flats. Basically the workers had pried open the orange boards and moved in, wired the place up. They had no natural light, but all else. Mattress next to mattress, and lots of porn. The guy was injured and shaking all over. He had a bandage around him. So the ambulance came and said “Thank God you found him,” and took him to hospital.

She said she finds it hard to think of Haggerston as a desirable place to live. She felt there was something very prison –like in the design of those types of estate. Very exposed but little in creating an architectural sense of community. Not as bad as the tower blocks, but cold and institutional. She kept longing for some curves and green amongst the brown brick lines. I always loved the open access and the red bricks and even the way it spreads out. I think she perhaps needs to live in a house.

Forget fiction, especially the “local”. The piece, I thought, should be an essay. What was I doing trying to create funny, heated and moving scenes? The attempts to base a story “loosely based on” the tales of the estate, the tales I have been told, just descended into sentimental drivel. I tried reducing the text to a few fragments.

Loosely based on the stories I have been told …

Or fiction based purely on the photographs themselves, lives lived, the painted cross, the old cassettes or records not worth giving away, pop stars loved and football teams supported, the occasional ornament, even a painting or two, the free calendar from a takeaway, dried flowers, a comedy of patterns or degrees of dirt around the switches, the array of abandoned fireplaces, surprisingly few clothes, handles in states of disrepair, unsightly pipes, attempts to hide those pipes, unwanted lamps, old keys, walking aids, lists and reminders and a few words pinned to doors, shelves or magnet–attached to an abandoned fridge.

Little that looks accidentally left behind, forgotten.

A sense of the checks and double–checks, the decisions made on what was simply not worth taking.

Some things dealt with, some just patched over, but mostly the sense of the unresolved, a problem there was perhaps no interest, time, energy, ability or assistance to fix, a giving up, perhaps. Or was it rather that people were being given up on?

Cool and bordering the ethnographic, impersonal, made bearable, and even funny, by the repetition of the camera position in flat after flat. The photographs seemed best left alone. Why try to finish something when the very sense was of nothing ever quite finished?

A few clues, the odd poster or magazine, though the flats were to be boarded, concreted up and demolished, almost nothing of the erotic.

From embarrassment that a builder you will never see might see it? Or do you continue to hold onto it all, or destroy it on making a fresh start? Was it always hidden anyway from the family, the flatmate, the lover?

No sense of the sex lives of the tenants, though you could certainly imagine the occasional crime scene investigation.

This feels different to my usual walks and windows, watching and wanting to be invisible; the almost total absence of the erotic, it disturbs me. Every memory of every place I have lived in is, after all, mostly erotic.

New estates, “regeneration” and the nearness to the idea of the “gated community”, but with an “appropriate” mix; or “pepper potting” as I am told this is known. A mix might make the property values drop, even if socially the new owners might quite like it. A mix of temporary residents, “affordable” housing for “key workers” and space for regular home–owning ones.

That attempt was tried before, nurses were added in. They soon, feeling intimidated, moved on.

The same stories of violence, drugs and drink amongst the newer home–owning residents, but their stories are less naked, more carefully concealed.

From nosey caretakers observing your every move and your every guest, through to CCTV . Footage mostly useful after the fact. Coded cards, security guards. Every step monitored.

I have never felt truly secure on an estate and no amount of monitoring, seclusion or exclusion works for me.

The moments when you are so messed up, no one and no machine seems able to help.

“He is in a right state” or “It’s his nerves” as the gossips speaking over the garden walls on Ladybrook, Mansfield might have said.

The past – cherish, discard, retrieve, involuntarily search for it, reinvent, work it out of the system, ditch it and block sender, leave friends and loves disunited or even deleted? I don’t know what to do with my own, let alone the pasts of others.

Police were called to an estate today … A senior minister today visited an estate in … Pop star R later visited the estate she was brought up on … A triumphant tennis star today returned … The tragic story for one family on the estate … Residents complained … A terror suspect was … The last …

Papers concerning the occupation of the Haggerston estates by Lieutenant Thomas Love of Tynemouth Castle and their subsequent sequestration and sale by the Commissioners to Messrs John Brownell and Gilbert Crouch for £3,000, who demised them back to Thomas Haggerston in 1653.

I moved to Haggerston after I had split up with my partner … it was quite a transitional time for me. I had shared the two–bedroom flat temporarily with three other people: a couple and a friend. So, it was cozy! Was calm in the early days – 1990 or 1991 – and then got crazy in about 1995 – 1997. I’d have to recheck my dates, but that’s what I recall. It was a long struggle to get on the tenancy list. By that time I just wanted to leave …

Yes, that’s the name of the video they made here in response to the drug problems, Haggerston, It’s Not Just Heroin. Apparently this was the ‘heroin capital’ of England … surely overstated but anyway, they made this when I moved into Pamela House.

… when I explained this project to her she declared, looking slightly horrified, “Oh I’ve been in a council flat once! They are not too bad.”

Her husband, now long dead, loved his car. In the early days of the CCTV technology he was a pioneer, mounting cameras in his kitchen window and above the front door to keep a protective eye at the car parked outside his flat. Anything coming close to the car such as footballs etc. was confiscated promptly, never to be returned to its rightful owner.

Who is stealing the pipes and the water tanks? N says that the gypsies come in vans and break into the bricked–up flats to steal the water tanks to sell them off to the scrap yard down the road. U and R said that people come pretending that they are from the Water Board and take out the tanks to sell them on to the scrap yard for 100 squid. K says that it is the council that takes out the water tanks of the bricked–up flats to put them in other flats to exchange faulty ones.

There is a knitting club, free internet facilities for elderly people, regular social events, music workshops.

Strange Fruit: The food coop is run entirely by volunteers. One of the West Indian women made them aware that the name actually means dead bodies dangling from a tree, people murdered by the KKK.

A famous bank robbery was apparently planned on the estate … I found reference to its planning and rendition into an Oscar winning 1948 film, Odd Man Out, or some such, where an unnamed Irish resistance organisation wanted to replenish its funds.

Infestations. Haggerston, the biotope.

Police raids. The police raided S’s flat instead of the one next to her. “Paul, just now there are 20 police outside, some with purple rubber gloves, when did they start wearing the purple ones?”

The picture of a happy snoozing dog having destroyed a couch (see opposite) is from J. That was his dog when he could still walk well … He could tell you each kind of brick, and in particular the older ones where the cement was a bit brittle, he would be able to make a hole and climb through.

She and her husband moved into the ‘prestige blocks’ in 1953. She has to move soon. When she moved in, it was during the Queen’s coronation, and her and her husband bought 53 carnations, and they placed the plant pots outside their flat, in a little green patch. One by one, the plants disappeared. One day her husband came back by another route and found that their neighbour had many pots of carnations in her living room window. They never confronted the neighbour …

She won repeated awards on local gardening competitions and the Hackney Gazette ran an article in 1975 called “A bright spot in a dark place”. When the new landlords took over they cut down her garden. She came home one day from visiting her son, and all that was left were brown stumps. This was in winter 2008/9 The builders said finally, “You can see the road again, now it’s safe for you.” The new landlords claimed that health and safety regulations mean that this was standard; there could be no shrubbery on the estate apart from in designated areas. The Hackney Gazette ran an article called “Call this Pruning?” The new landlord apologised and employed a gardener to restore her garden. They put in many plants and now she only complains about the condoms and nappies thrown into it from the flat above.

Perhaps estates are always in decline, the ideals and ideas behind them being so grand.

The uncertainty of the street seems preferable, and everyone is to be seen there, even if some of them only step from a taxi to a department store. Every chance encounter on every street where no one knows much about you. You are just what they see, if they notice you at all, and only what they can guess at.

I feel at once faithful to and a traitor to the estates I was placed in, or those I merely paused on.

A kind of guilt, or sense of failure, in the wandering, though I am never quite sure what the “charge” might be, or why I did not pass the test and settle.

I fear the last estate, the retirement home. The old upholstered armchairs, though so many look decoratively out to sea. Most housing estates I found myself wanting to leave almost immediately on arrival. Too many domestic stories, stories of the damaged, I see and am touched, but I do not really want to look too closely.

I can’t really share in the fascination of the issues that surround estates.

Housing, so far from the world of work, so separate.

The only pleasure was in watching the comings and goings from a window. Or the chance view from a window. People at home, people passing; their rituals and routines.

Every estate I feel as a place I will be caught on or caught out in.

I should start on a store of walking sticks and canes.

I need to leave the estate, and thank you, I can find my own way out.

And yet, there is a spirit.

Apparently, when the Turkish “guest–workers” arrived to work in Germany in the 1960–70s, though mostly poor, they still had to phone home.

One of them, perhaps examining the sparse facilities of the estate, came up with a solution.

Make money from ice to fit the coin boxes.

The calls lasted till the ice melted.

For a long time the German telecom people were perplexed. How was it that the coin boxes could be empty and yet show no sign of being broken into? There was no sign of any counterfeit coin.

And if that is but an urban legend, what matter.

(The book is available in full at https://www.theurbanindustry.net/products/estate ISBN 978-0-9563539-2-4 and https://gumroad.com/myrdlecourtpress#fSZnW)