Tuesday, 18 February 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: West End Girls

Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different? 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SOCIETY.

The End of Norah Street

Picture taken before the street was demolished
Let us begin at the beginning, although my birth was not here, but in a small country town, due to the fact that the maternity hospitals were full of women giving birth to the babies produced by the returning troops from the second world war in London in 1946. My dad was one of those, but my arrival was too late to take an empty place in one of the local hospitals, so mum was sent to another town to await my arrival.

When I eventually arrived, I was taken to my new home. The houses were built in 1884, nothing special: a working class area of London. The only swimming pool we had was the garden drain that my grandfather would block to allow his duck to have a swim. We had a small garden, but there were chickens, a duck, a dog and a cat, and even my mum’s family, one son, three daughters and her parents, all in three rooms. All the livestock had disappeared by the time I arrived, including my mum’s brother and sisters and I was squeezed into a cot in the corner of my parents bedroom. We lived in the top three rooms, my grandad in the bottom three rooms. The cot became a bed and at the age of 4 I eventually had my own room. The only film stars we saw were those at the cinema, even the TV only arrived when I was about 10 years old.

We had a few gangsters that became famous for their crimes, even a few shootings in the area, but nothing dangerous. If you stuck your nose out too far, it might be chopped off (figuratively speaking), and the local language was cockney, a London dialect, spiced with a few colourful adjectives that I never actually said as mum threatened me to wash out my mouth with a bar of soap if I did. I did not like the taste of soap.

So now let us leave this scene of the concrete jungle behind us. One day I decided to move on in the world. I had been working in the City of London and decided to see what other cities were in the world. I had also caught the longing to speak other languages as well as English and cockney.

I arrived in Switzerland, in another concrete jungle called Zürich, The houses were bigger, different and there was no war damage. I even found one street, the Bahnhofstrasse, that was filled with shops and banks.

I moved on to the Swiss countryside, met Mr. Swiss and eventually settled down in a place called Solothurn. After our offspring had grown and decided to do their own thing Mr. Swiss and I moved into a small village near Solothurn.

This is where the fun starts. You do not just move in Switzerland, it all has to be documented. You cannot have a population wandering all over the place, it all has to be registered. If you do not register within a certain time after moving, you might will have to pay a fine. So now we were living in a village where the population of cows, hedgehogs and field mice was more than that of the people. This was no problem, our cats chose us because of the field mice probably.

What is the social background of this village? According to how many wealthy people live in a town or village in Switzerland, the local council tax if affected. If you are surrounded by factories and people that have to work for their living, then the taxes are higher. If you live in a village where there are factory owners, doctors, lawyers and established millionaires, then your taxes are lower as these selected few are earning enough to cover the expenses. This is explained in a nutshell, but that seemed to be the way things worked in Switzerland to my working class, East of London outlook on the world.

We had moved into a village where one of the richer members of the local society lived and so he was financing the infrastructure of the village like roads, schools, drainage, etc. etc. This made our village quite a popular place to live, as the local council tax was at a low level, the local millionaire paying for most of it. The local millionaire was not so young and one day he passed on to the millionaire happy hunting grounds. In the meanwhile, other millionaires had moved into the village, so our local income tax level was maintained. Luxury apartments had been built for the retired millionaires and so everyone was happy.

We have now been living in this millionaire’s tax paradise for about fifteen years. Of course not everyone in the village is a millionaire. We have a few farmers, people that actually have to work for a living, and a few golden oldies, like Mr. Swiss and I. The village is split in two halves by the main road, the top half mostly having villas houses and luxury apartments and the bottom half where we live, with normal apartments and a few houses in between. It has become quite a popular place for the older generation, but gradually families are moving in with children. We have a tribe of crows populating the local trees and during the summer evenings a few bats flutter around, but up to now I have not seen any vampires.

Just across the road up on a hill is a castle, which now belongs to the local authorities. It is open for viewing and you can celebrate your wedding there, or any other celebration in the family – no problem. We also have a stable where you can take riding lessons. To complete the picture there is a local church, with the local cemetery
where we eventually all arrive, millionaires, workers and golden oldies. There is no difference how much tax you paid, you just might have a nicer grave.
Further down the road

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1 comment:

  1. The area of Birmingham I grew up in, all the people were definately working class, but the area itself looked more like middle class......semi-detached houses with nice long gardens.