Housework in a Slum
Certainly, in St Ann’s, the condition of the houses bears immediately on the lives of the people. Englishmen widely believe in a thing they are pleased to call a ‘private life’. You can live something like it in a commuter suburb, where if you have a blazing row with your wife, neighbours will only get to know about it if she tells them. Private lives require a sturdy minimum of investment in bricks and mortar: there are, for sure, numerous disadvantages in such private lives, but these are disadvantages which many people in St Ann’s might well like to taste. In some of the streets of St Ann’s nothing is personal unless it is whispered. The shape and structure of the houses project even the most individual activities into the social domain. If you go to the lavatory, you meet your neighbours in the yard. If you want to make love you may well feel it discreet to listen for your neighbour’s snores before you start the bed-springs rattling. Even when the houses were brand new, they were suitable only for people who lived very similar lives, and whose conduct varied very little from a fairly restrictive norm. Eccentricities of behaviour are immediately noticeable in such places. Badly insulated, they transmit noise, smells, heat, cold, and personal secrets with complete impartiality.
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