Walking ‘Tango’ the dog in the well-heeled nieghbourhood where we’ve been house-sitting for the last month is trip round the collective imagination of the nation’s architects. It’s an ecclectic journey. Some areas have started imposing height limits to stop people knocking up fifteen-storey apartment blocks all over the city, but apart from that, it seems you can dream up whatever takes your fancy. Makes a change from rows of identical victorian terraces.
Another restriction that’s come into force recently is the city government’s attempt to stop estate agents re-naming neighbourhoods to make them more attractive to house-buyers. The trendy Palermo neighbourhood has been sub-divided into Palermo-Soho, (bars and nightclubs) and Palermo-Hollywood (TV production industry – and bars and nightclubs), which makes anywhere nearby a potential Palermo-Something. Villa Crespo, which is historically a jewish area, was in danger of becoming Palermo-Queens before someone decided things were getting silly.
House-sitting has worked out nicely for us as a number of our friends here have very nice houses indeed. Something of a recurring question for us has been how should one feel about inhabiting such beautiful homes in a country where wealth is so poorly distributed. For much of the upper-middle class, the only problem is how to keep oneself and one’s property safe from the have-nots. Hence the barred windows, the proliferation of neighbourhoods fenced off from the outside world and the private security patrols. The more socially conscious have to add into the mix the potential for disquiet about such levels of priviledge. It’s not an easy square to circle.
Everything is relative though. Thanks to the current state of the US dollar, you could sell your 5 bedroom mansion with outhouse and swimming pool here and still only just scrape together the cash for a 2-bed flat in Tottenham, or… er.. vice-versa!