Sunday, 3 July 2011

Romania does not have an underclass

Childhood those long empty days and dull places and nothing happening. In retrospect Westcliff-on-Sea Essex still feels unliterary and not very interesting but Tilbury and Gravesend where I  passed through as  a child once a year en route to see an uncle in Kent are truly eery place places, settings for a gritty film noir. East  Tilbury and especially Stanford le Hope the most depressing places in the world. Much more depressing than the forests of jerry-built tower blocks in Bucharest. Gravesend cries out to be written about by Peter Ackroyd, except I think Peter Ackroyd pretty talentless. I suppose Joseph Conrad did it on the first pages of Heart of Darkness. Not a place I would like to live (unlike the rather cheerful council estate in Woolwich which I enjoyed living in).

The biggest difference between tower block life in England and in Bucharest is that Romania (like Eastern Europe in general) doesn’t have an underclass. Not much street crime or drugs though both are becoming more common. There are still child beggars who make a decent income for those running them and some children are preyed on by foreign or native child molesters. No  yobs or hoodies though there are plenty of sad soft faced louts burying their faces into plastic bags filled with glue. Almost everyone except the secret police and senior party members and lucky remnants of the old upper middle classes until a few years ago lived in tower blocks. They are not class ghettoes but places where Romanians preserved the gentility of pre-Communist life. The  children are well brought up, play in the street  and unafraid to tap the arm of a passing middle-aged gentleman and say ‘Ghinion’ which means ‘You’re it.’ A good country to bring up children.  

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