Monday, 9 September 2013

My Own Room

The creepiest track ever made is probably ‘What’s He Doing In There’ by Tom Waits

It reminds of one of the hardest parts of sharing, be it in families or with flatmates; the idea that you should always have a sense of mystery, of having barriers, a sense of seperation, of being able to shut the door behind you and forget the people around you. It's about space - to be listen to music. To think. To just be alone. Especially when you are young, and finding your way in life, deciding who you are. Sadly, the notion that we will once more hide in our bedrooms as teenagers is over. The idea that everyone, no matter who they are, deserves a room of their own is dead.

Even Michael Gove realises that we need a room of our own – he’s spoken about how the lack of space to study is detrimental to school students with nowhere for revisision. He’ll soon backtrack and claim he was, in fact blaming people for not earning ‘hard enough’ to buy larger homes, or something. You can’t study in a room where three same sex siblings are gaming, fighting, or making music.

The consensus on the need for space for those on no/low pay collapsed when a Labour Government (yes, a Labour government) introduced what was effectively bedroom tax for the private sector. LHA replaced housing benefit and limits the money paid to cover rent for claimants, by decreeing how many rooms allowed. We've witnessed the demeaning effects of Bedroom Tax’s notorious assault on dignity. You must all be aware of some rules. But did you know that under it’s ludicrous rules, the single sex Walton sextuplets – six of them – would have been forced to share a bedroom? Siblings must share until they are, I think, 12.

That’s much too old - I wonder what Victorian campaigners would make of that, since they argued for 'decency' - or as we might argue, privacy at what is a very sensitive age.

Yep - I know that the great high idiot in chief Grant Shapps says he sons share a room so that he keep an office in his 'modest' home, but when his dueling teenage sons start flexing their muscles, he can just use some of his millions to - ooh, I don't know...move? Build an extension?

Lord Freud (he of the eight bedroom mansion) doesn’t care, that this condensing of permitted space is infantilising when we live we live so differently now. It was Virginia Wolfe who said that women writers were held back in their development by not having a room of their own. Claimants under under 35 must now share houses – how long until they are forced to live in barracks, with bunk beds? We live differently, with music, television, and people come and go -they work in shifts. We need spare rooms. We all need a room of our own.

So to answer Tom Waits- what he's doing there is this: dreaming of some space – of some peace. He’s also dreaming of some solitude.

No comments: