So, as I lay in bed at my Victorian terrace yesterday morning and heard an expert on the Today programme gushing about the delights of this classically British method of mass housing, I should have felt very smug.
There’s nothing like being told that you are living in the ideal home. Except the whole debate is wrong-footed.
Policy Exchange, which has been set up by planning minister Nick Boles, has unsurprisingly come up with research toeing the Government line, showing that terraces are great and towers are ghastly. High-rise social housing is linked to crime, vagrancy, juvenile delinquency, the whole hoodie package, says the report. The way forward is for us all to return to Coronation Street.
At which point, a bit of perspective please. Are we envisaging the London tower blocks used by Stanley Kubrick to depict “the vicious dystopia of A Clockwork Orange” because, if so, then of course. Fill your block with problematic, poverty-stricken people, sprinkle with a high level of unemployment, decorate with carelessness and concrete, and you will have a potent mix of want, crime and, if you are lucky, full-scale gang warfare.
Or are we discussing the glass Utopia to be seen in Renzo Piano’s Shard, where people are coughing up £25 just for the privilege of riding in its super-fast lift? To have an apartment here will be a thing to boast of, not an object of vandalism. How about the £600m worth of high-rise apartments planned for Battersea Power Station? They sold out in four days. Give people well-considered housing and they will consider well of it.
So is it about being in the private sector? Not necessarily. The late Denys Lasdun’s peerless 16-storey Keeling House was built in 1967 for council tenants. In 1999, it was privatised, tarted up and sold to what were then called yuppies, for a small fortune.
The four towers of the building were designed, Lasdun once told me, so that housewives could put out their washing on the balcony without being overlooked by anyone, yet the flats were close enough for a chat.
Whereas in a terrace, you will have to be jolly well accustomed to washing – not only yours, but that of your neighbours, too, as you will be exposed to every last thread of it, whether seeing it hanging on the line, or hearing it whizzing through a spin dry in the kitchen adjoining yours.
The look of the terraced house – at the front, at least – was designed on an Italian palazzo. The reality is rather more like a student commune. Only the other day, a neighbour popped round, not for a cup of sugar, but because my four children are so noisy she had apparently fallen into despair.
Women – so easy to annoy!
This week brought Expert Women’s Day, sponsored by TV trade mag Broadcast, in which “an abundance of female high achievers” lined up to be tomorrow’s TV, radio and online stars. What a pity it was also the week when a national newspaper revealed that women – exclusively – are vulnerable to a whole host of “everyday annoyances”, including catching your sleeve on a door handle, never-ending menus, stepping on Lego, getting an itchy nose while washing up and – the killer – misjudging kettle water levels.
Forget those Masters degrees, that Nobel prize-winning research, women! In the view of some media, we are just Lego-tormented snivellers, forever catching our sleeves on handles and getting in a fix about water levels, not in the Arctic but in our kettles.
Twitter: @RosiemillardReuse content