Wednesday Whinge: Oh I do like a boiled egg with soldiers
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing
Defend Council Housing rallies support ahead of Commons inquiry
24housing magazine's deputy editor Brian Church delivers his 'Wednesday Whinge' - on a Thursday, naturally.
As a rule, Wednesday Whinge won’t go out on a Thursday as it doesn’t look good, does it? Gives the impression that I’ve been too lazy to rant away whereas the rather noble truth is that I’ve been drinking at several parties at the Chartered Institute of Housing annual conference. I have the rough equation that 1 beer equals 1 valuable insight into our sector so I can honestly declare this morning that I feel enlightened.
The conference in Manchester is its normal high standard but there’s one thing missing which makes me slightly angry (the Wednesday Whinge will run the range of emotions from slightly annoyed to extremely pissed off with a general nitpicking whinginess the common thread).
Before we go on, a flashback – a very uncomfortable flashback – to a newsroom in Greece. It’s 1am and we’ve failed again. Failed badly on our second trial run to finish the new English-language paper by 11pm, the absolute deadline for being on sale in kiosks across the country by the morning. Everyone is by now exhausted. Enter the big and angry boss. We’ve got one more go tomorrow, after which, and I still remember his words, “I can’t protect you any longer”. Meaning: He’d replace us.
The next day: We finished at 1045pm.
So what makes me slightly angry? It’s this: We don’t have that same raw anger shown by my former boss. Neither at the CIH conference nor in the housing sector generally. The reception for Housing Minister Kris Hopkins was incredibly tame given all the resentment felt within the sector. I write before Eric Pickles speaks so that may be a different matter as he enjoys a good windup.
The problem is we’re all very nice, all very middle class and all without much to lose. A housing association run by people threatened by homelessness, or just earning an ordinary wage, would surely be far angrier than you and me.
I shared a train to Manchester with some rather middle class people who I realised, to my dawning horror, were also going to the conference. They were perfectly pleasant and just like me so this is very hypocritical. But oh so middle class! “At the weekend I do like a real boiled egg with soldiers” was one gem, as was “We played tennis on the community courts, a lovely social gathering”.
One of the new PlaceShapers videos (very good and well worth a watch) has an unintentionally hilarious middle class moment which I unfairly paraphrase. A teenage drug addict, life in ruins, violence, crime and, horror of horrors, he’s not eating right. Again, it’s perfectly well-meant and eminently sensible but I can’t recall the cop on Hill Street Blues warning his men each morning: “And be careful out there, they’ve not had their 5-a-day.”
If a minister turned up at Manchester Central to talk about badger culls, we’d have a huge police presence, interruptions every minute, all-round raw anger. Of course the conference host has to make sure the speaker is heard but even the audience questions to Hopkins were tame. I didn’t hear one raised voice though tenant supremo Michael Gelling came close to passion. I’m totally against badger culls by the way but, like all readers, I’m also against people having to sleep on the streets, move from hostel to hostel or get chucked out of their lifelong homes.
If we don’t get angry, we won’t get anything done. Unlike the really desperate people out there, who I know many of you help day in-day out, maybe we’re all doing rather well? And that’s why we’re not angry.