Around and Around

Many many years ago I worked for the post office. Yes, I rode a bike, carried a large bag and delivered post. I worked in a very deprived postcode area of a city.

My whole “walk” was a collection of deck access flats and tower blocks. The flats had been the “key” to the prosperity of the area as rows and rows of slums in terraced streets were demolished for the shiny new buildings.

Sadly it was now 20-30 years on. The flats were a disgrace, the pressed concrete crumbling, rife with cockroaches and bugs and essentially a duplication of that which they sought to replace.

The tenants were poor. They didn’t work or worked where the pay was dire. The bulk of my post bag was brown envelopes from the then called DHSS. Giro day was a big event. Some tenants were students, some new age type folk, some travellers trying to settle and many were foreign students taking the cheapest accommodation they could find. I understand that those on benefits paid no rent at all. The conditions being so bad the council couldn’t demand rent. The whole stinking, urine soaked staircase, drug dealing hell hole was a disgrace. Yet there were some tiny pockets of pride and cleanliness. The odd flat would be immaculate and in 99% of such cases it was a very old pensioner who had been uprooted too many times. They had been worn down and now complete stubbornness meant they were staying put. I admired them. They knew that the vicious circle of demolish and rebuild didn’t work.

I read a blog by recently by @poppylurcher and she drew many conclusions that fell in with my experiences from 25 years ago as a postie and then into my police career. The blog is here.

I delivered a giro to one flat every week. It was sent by recorded delivery because this proved it had been delivered. The door opened and a filthy woman in shabby clothing opened the door. There was no carpet on the floor. Children swinging around her skirt were in various states of dishabille. They too had filthy faces. In the room behind then was an armchair with a bottle of whiskey on the floor beside it. Facing the chair was a huge tv. The woman scrawled an unintelligible daub across my book and shut the door. I wandered off thinking to myself that soap was cheap, water was free and far more important than alcohol and tv.

My unsympathetic peers back at the sorting office had a commonly used statement about the bulk of the people on my walk.

“You could put them folk in Buckingham Palace and they’d turn it into a shit hole.”

However unpalatable it was and how unacceptable such a phrase would be today it did carry a certain truth. However I also felt that perhaps this wasn’t directly the fault of these people. There could be a whole number of issues that lead them to this state. There could be further personal issues that simply exacerbate the despair even further.

In my own family I have seen how the example of a parent is taken by the child and the pattern repeats. In legal circles it is said that an abused child often becomes an abuser. The same principle can be found in social/family backgrounds. The child of a parent who never works, never studied hard and simply had children will often follow that same path. This is by no means a rule of thumb but it is a regularly seen pattern.

I have had dealings with families through my police career that fit this perfectly. Dad was a criminal in and out of jail. Mum never worked but in between husband being in prison and police custody has had 4-5 children. Eldest lad is a rogue, forever in trouble and dragging his younger brother into it. They are expelled from school or having one2one sessions because they are so disruptive. They are following dads footsteps. Eldest daughter has spent so long at home looking after younger siblings that at the age of 15 she gives scant regard to contraception and becomes pregnant. She falls into trap mother fell into. She is now a mother, uneducated and by the time she is free of children employers will no doubt have written her off.

It takes a very strong personality in this family to stand out and be different. The one who sticks at school, learns and does everything they can to better themselves. They do happen but they are, at least from my experience, few and far between.

We are often told that we become our parents. We mock this but as we get older we catch ourselves when we see similarities in the way we behave or the things we say. Is this learnt behaviour? I think it is. To that end, in very simplistic terms, most of us will generally follow a path similar to our parents. It therefore stands to reason that the problems society faces will just continue to circle around and around.

I cannot top the comments at the very end of @poppylurcher ‘s blog but I would say two things. There are many diamonds out there. Covered in dirt and not very appealing but with the right encouragement, engagement and support they will shine. The second matter is about the inner city flats. They were demolished and developers built lovely modern houses and apartments and made some green spaces. A wonderful lifestyle was advertised. They are now in a very poor state, occupied by destitute people, surrounded by drugs and crime and pretty much heading in the direction of the deck access flats and the slums before them.

The circle continues to turn…

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