[Ben Reeve Lewis is not an Elvis fan....]
My mate Phil is an Elvis nut. I’ve never seen the appeal in the slightest, apart from “A little less conversation” but even then only the DJ Shadow re-mix rather than the original.
It’s the daft Vegas period clothes and the weird mumbling (‘Thangyouverymuchladeezngennelmen’ ) voice that goes straight over my head. To my mind Elvis looks like the sort of bloke who should be hanging off the back of your bumper car taking your 20p
In honour of the King
Last year Phil held a party in his garden to honour the anniversary of Presley’s death, where the 25 or so attendees had to eat food from the Elvis cookbook, notably fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches.
Only drink got me through.
This Thursday we trotted up to the Cross Keys pub in Covent Garden because Phil had read online that they have a paper napkin signed by the King in the 1950s. It was a wild goose chase going back to the early 1980s and the previous landlord and also a measure of Phil’s obsession.
But then I obsess about housing issues, sad man that I am. If I come across a news story that gets under my skin it will wake me in the night with thoughts until have to write about it. Which is why my New Yawker mate Ruby Soho knowingly sent me a link to a story about a Big Apple building her brother lives in where developers are looking to get a free piggy back.
Reach for the Sky
Basically some greedy nitwit called Paul Boardman was walking past the 7 story Art Deco block, dwarfed by it’s taller neighbours and suddenly thought “Wow ……how much more money could I make if I built a tower block on top of that whilst making the tenants lives a misery for the next few years and risk having their fixed rent increased because it would be seen as an improvement?”.
Except that isn’t how Paul put it to the New York Times for whom he tactfully said
“We get to unlock the value of this site and create a building truly worthy of this great neighborhood without displacing any of the existing residents”
“We hired all the best consultants, and it’s pretty amazing what they’ve come up with,”
And exactly what do you mean by “Value” Paul? Value in terms of social impact on the neighbourhood?, value to the existing residents? or value as in the dollar in your off-shore bank account?.
Jesse M Keenan, head of the Centre for Urban Real Estate pronounced:
“The idea is genius”
The residents aren’t so sure. Barbara Stark who has lived in the building for 52 years put her finger on all this enthusiasm:
“This isn’t for the tenants; it’s for them,”
The building’s manager Edward Kallikow, clearly with his eye on the possibility of his own future off shore bank account responded:
“If anything, it’s going to enhance the value of the asset for everyone there. If tenants cooperated, the owners would consider not raising the rent for improvements”
Is it tired, cynical old me or do I detect a note of blackmail in there? “Shut up and you won’t get a rent increase. Make waves and you will”.
Anyway, that’s the Yanks. We’ve got our own problems, although its nice to see that the language of greed is a truly international one…..maybe it should replace Esperanto. Maybe it already has.
The British Desert on sale
A few weeks back I visited Britain’s only desert.
What really????? You didn’t know we had one???? Shame on you.
Well neither did I until reading me mother in law’s Telegraph this week, although quite a why a West Indian ex-nurse now in a wheelchair from years of lifting people in and out of bed and not able to claim a penny in decent benefits should feel her life is reflected in this newspaper is beyond me. – Didn’t stop my steel erector dad or factory worker mum from voting Tory.
Sorry, I digress. The enduring mystery of working class Conservatives is another obsession of mine.
The desert referred to is actually stony old Dungeness, down on the Kent coast home to a nuclear power station and a few wooden houses.
Not exactly Death Valley is it?
The area has gone on sale for £1.5 million. Surprisingly the ‘Desert’ tag didn’t come via an estate agent trying to glamour up the area but from our own Met Office.
A trustee of the vendor estate, Maurice Ede said:
“It is often said that this distinctive and undisturbed landscape is unlike any other part of the United Kingdom. I have known it intimately for 40 years and never fail to be moved by it on my regular visits.”
Before mysteriously adding:
“I’m not getting older and neither are the other trustees so we feel now is the right time to pass it on to someone who can breathe new life into Dungeness.”
“Not getting older”?????? Hmmm lets hope that was a misprint rather than a vision there Maurice.
Housing associations losing the plot
Genesis…..not the band or the bible chapter but the housing association have been very much in the news this week with first the announcement that a senior manager has quit on principle in protest that George Osborne’s last budget killed off any chance that housing associations could continue to provide and build social homes for the poor and the needy but also, hot on the heels, the decision by Genesis Homes that they will be quitting the game altogether and only building homes for sale or rent at full market value.
This has caused uproar in the social housing sector as it is deemed to mark the beginning of the end for a 150 year old ethos and a move over to New York’s Paul Boardman’s view of the future where the value of the sky as an investment opportunity can be released.
The ever excellent Joe Halewood over on the blog ‘Speye’ begs to differ pointing out that one in 1,200 housing associations is hardly the death knell.
And Joe goes a step further and attacks housing associations generally and the National Housing Federation specifically for embracing the affordable rent model to boost income, saying:
“The AR model is a financially toxic product and is not for the needy or vulnerable tenant yet in 2013/14 Housing Associations increased their AR products by 102% in the rush for these 134% rental increases, while of course retaining their founding ethos…er…!”
He says that Genesis have taken the only sane route in the current climate and berates other housing associations as ‘Spineless’ and the NHF for moving towards the laughably titled ’Affordable rent’ model in the first place instead of standing up to government and telling them to stuff it.
“We need to build homes for the ‘needy’ is another lamentation in the HA vitriol vis-a-vis Genesis Housing Association. Yet a 2 bed at a £309 per week rent level will mean that property will be unaffordable for a lone parent with 1 child if on benefit in the capital with the £23,000 per year reduced benefit cap.”
Says Joe, blaming the housing association movement for criticising Genesis for calling it like it is and getting out social renting in order to survive.
What made me smile this week
The blank look on the face of the Cross Keys 20 year old barmaid when Phil and I asked to see the King’s napkin.
One of the joys of getting older is not caring if you look stupid to a beautiful 20 year old woman.
See ya next week