Category Archives: council estates (UK)

A short walk down Dalrymple Drive

Dalrymple lives

in a wasteland.

In the slums, known in England as ‘council estates’,

the glass of many of the windows has been replaced by plywood; such gardens as there are have reverted to grey-green scrub, with empty beer and soft drink cans, used condoms and loose sheets of tabloid newspaper in place of flowers; and the people trudge through the desolation as disconsolately as in any communist land.

Everything is

disorientatingly arbitrary, just as bureaucrats like it: compared with the average British public housing estate, the Cretan Labyrinth was a model of classical regularity.

Here, says Dalrymple,

is where the rioting underclass lives and takes its being.

  • Women shuffle along in jumble-sale clothes and fly-paper curlers, prematurely undergoing the physical shrinkage of old age, a cigarette attached by dried saliva to their lower lip.
  • Young men, bodily mature but with the mind and inclinations of juvenile barbarians, eye the world with sullen hostility, which the tattoos on their knuckles, necks and forearms not infrequently express in words. They are unemployed and profoundly unemployable: they are intolerant of any external restraint on their behaviour, and cannot fix their minds upon anything for more than a few moments.

This is a world

in which schools not merely fail to educate, but are anti-educational establishments.

Dalrymple asks his young patients about their experiences at school, and they are depressingly uniform:

  • violence
  • boredom
  • indiscipline
  • insolence
  • intimidation
  • truancy
  • a determination to bring everyone down to the same abysmal level

Any effort to achieve

is treated as treachery, and if persisted in leads to violence. Teachers soon come to have the same outlook as prison governors: to survive a day without serious incident is a success or even a triumph. There is no question of imparting knowledge: schooling is a form of remand in custody.

A teacher tells Dalrymple of a circular from the headmaster of his school reminding staff that physical force is not to be used on pupils, except in self-defence. The same teacher tells him about a recent parent-teacher meeting at his school:

The parents of five out of 110 pupils found time away from their videos to attend. He telephoned the father of one of his pupils whose progress had been particularly poor (or whose regression to barbarity was particularly marked).

‘I’m your son’s class teacher,’ he said.

‘Are you?’ came the reply. ‘Well you can fuck off.’ And the father slammed the receiver down.