Posted by: lucylastic | July 3, 2007

Social Commentary at its very best…..

Sometimes TV is just brilliant – last night was a prime example.  Two stellar social commentaries that couldn’t have been more different, but were both hugely revealing about a wide tranch of our society in their natural habitats.

First was ‘One of our sheep is missing’, a documentary featuring the Gunnerside WI, (it’s in Yorkshire) and a very gung ho set of ladies they are.  The missing sheep of the title was actually the goal in an outward bound activity devised by one of their members who seemed more determined than most to lead a group of ‘mature’ ladies up hill, down dale, across water, through caves and gallons of mud in the name of team-building.  After an unpromising start, and a morbid interest in the exact nature and scope of the insurance cover for the event, the lady originally tasked to create the cryptic clues for the event was unceremoniously dropped, (“they just didn’t call me”) and retired to lick her wounds at a neighbouring town’s WI instead.  The callousness of ‘Outward Bound Lady’s’ approach underlined all that can be wrong with this sort of organisation.  Beneath the Jam & Jerusalem seethes rivalry and ambition more normally associated with large, corporate enterprises.  The jostling for position, secret ballots and attempts to become president reveal hard nosed women who balk at nothing when persuing a goal – it made The Apprentice look like PlaySchool!  I couldn’t find any reference to whether this was a one-off or part of a series – I do hope it’s the latter, it was riveting!

The second, much sadder look at real life was ‘the Tower’.  A story following the fate of a former Council Tower block in Deptford/Lewisham – it’s sale to Berkeley Homes for redevelopment as ‘the apartments at Z Tower’, (riverside living at its best) and the lives of some of it’s former tenants as they try and re-establish themselves in the shadow of their former home.  There are quite some characters amongst the former tenants – a very mixed bunch – a clown; a number of drug addicts and their quest for money making schemes; a young coloured couple who have already been together for 7 years and have 2 children, but the man is getting a bit wobbly at the thought of ‘commitment’.  By contrast, the Berkeley Homes ‘marketing team’ make me blush to be even associated with the profession – their single goal (it appears) is to sweep the local deprivation and appalling treatment of former tenants by the Council under the table and focus on the ‘urban regeneration’ which is underway and the inevitable increase in equity that will surely follow for ‘homers’ and ‘investment buyers’ alike.  In Episode 1, the Clown was holding out against the council’s ridiculously low offer to buy him out of the flat he had struggled to purchase in the face of no heating, (cut-off), no water, (cut-off), no elecricity, (cut-off) and no post – mysteriously cut off as well – proved by the fact that the test letters he was posting to himself didn’t arrive…….. Why was he cut-off?  Not becuase he hadn’t paid his bills – they were all up to date – but simply as another council inflicted tactic to make his life miserable.  Last night, we heard an anonymous council offical shouting abuse down the phone to a heavily pregnant, partially disabled woman who was quietly trying to explain that a 7th floor flat, without a lift wasn’t a viable option for her with her (certified) limited mobility.  The message in this documentary is loud and clear – money talks.  Wealthy developers and upmarket, ‘yuppie’ owners are just the sort to drive schicki micki cafes, restaurants and shops to ply their wares in the currently abandoned buildings that surround ‘Tower Z’.  And as the Berkeley marketing lady said, “there’ll be a Starbucks and a Costa Coffee here soon, just wait and see”.  I’m not holding my breath.  No one seems to give a hoot for the former residents and I can’t help thinking that more than one trick has been missed here.  Surely true urban regeneration needs to cater for all, not just for the select few?  Still, there will no doubt be jobs available as ‘baristas’ in the future.  Whatever happened to waiters?  As one of my colleagues said, those damn lawyers get everywhere don’t they?

I haven’t done ‘3 things’ for a while, so I thought I’d have a bash.  I would be blind if I hadn’t noticed 1. a lot of rain lately, still the gardens need it ;-).  2, A massive sale of patio heaters, garden furniture and the like at B&Q and other DIY places, which just confirms the summer is going to be a wash-out and 3. Stock piles of burgers and sausages in the supermarkets – possibly linked to items 1. and 2.   Toodlepip.



  1. Hi Lucy – the Women’s Institute programme was a series of three, I think you may have missed the first one which was about a group of younger women (under the age of 4O) who created a WI on the isle of Wight which became Britain’s biggest in less than a year. They were very dynamic and were challenging the way the WI is structured, all its rules and regs. As you say it was a fascinating series. The 3rd episode I found quite poignant with all those elderly ladies talking about their lives.

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